Dozens of business groups and other organizations want proposed changes to liability laws removed from the state budget.
The provisions included in the state budget would rewrite how courts and juries determine who is financially responsible for paying damages. Ed Lump with the Wisconsin Restaurant Association says the changes would result in lawsuits that target a large number of defendants, because it would allow trial lawyers to go after multiple people in the hopes of obtaining large settlements. He says it could also increase the cost of liability insurance.
Groups rallied at the Capitol Thursday, with many focusing their attention on a provision restoring Joint and Several Liability. Abe Degnan, who owns a construction company, says it could force them to pay large settlements, even if they're only partially at fault.
Several speakers made the argument that they could be only one-percent liable in a lawsuit, but end up covering 100-percent of damages under the changes.
Keith Clifford with the Wisconsin Association of Justice says those fears are "nonsense." He says those arguing against the reforms ignore the needs of injured workers and their families, who may have a hard time getting justice under current law.
Clifford says the changes largely restore liability laws that were in place until 1995. A study by the State Bar of Wisconsin showed the average liability of defendants in cases before then was 35-percent.