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Proposal in Wisconsin Would Make it Harder to Recover Damages

New Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has introduced a proposal which would make it more difficult for parties injured by defective products to recover damages in court. It would require that a plaintiff be able to prove exactly which part of the supply chain, the manufacturer, distributor or retailer, was responsible for the defect which caused the injury.

The proposal would also increase the burden to recover for pain and suffering caused by a defective product. The Wisconsin State Journal reports that consumer advocates say the proposal would reward reckless conduct by businesses, while business groups have praised the proposal.

Raising the bar for product liability lawsuits has been a goal for some interests in Wisconsin since a 2005 Wisconsin Supreme Court case. In that case, a Milwaukee boy was sickened by lead paint. The court ruled that the risk of injury by lead paint was created by an industry wide practice. Therefore, the companies that manufactured the lead paint could be held liable even if the injured boy was not able to prove which specific manufacturer had produced the paint that had harmed him.

The new proposal would require that an injured party prove that the injuries were caused by a specific manufacturer, distributor or seller. This would allow a business that sells a defective product to avoid liability if the injured person is unable to prove that it was the retailer, rather than the manufacturer that caused the defect.

Walker has called a special session of the Wisconsin legislature to address this and other measures.

Source: Wisconsin State Journal Walker moves to make it harder to sue companies Mary Spicuzza, January 4, 2011

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