Lawmakers gave final approval Thursday night to a bill that makes sweeping changes to how civil lawsuits are handled in the state, and that makes it harder for the public to bring lawsuits against businesses.
The Assembly approved the measure on a 57-36 vote, but only after Republicans defeated nearly 20 amendments to the bill brought forward by Democrats. Those proposals sought to ease restrictions on expert witness testimony, remove caps on punitive damages, and restore access to state incident reports from medical and nursing home facilities.
Democrats focused heavily on those reports through much of the debate, questioning how it helps to create jobs in the state by preventing victims of negligence and violence from having access to those reports. Several lawmakers recited portions of emotional testimony from a recent hearing on the bill, where victims and their families said they never would have known a facility was responsible without having access to those reports.
Republican state Representative Jim Ott (R-Mequon) says families and attorneys could still view those reports, but they can’t be used in court. Democrats argued that just allows facilities to cover-up their mistakes and protect abusers.
Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) accused Democrats of stretching the truth, and lashed back at those who accused Republicans of siding with rapists and murders.
Republicans have argued the bill is needed to protect businesses from the fear of frivolous lawsuits, which they say is preventing the creation of new jobs in the state.
The legislation now heads to Governor Walker, who requested it as part of his special session on job creation.