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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

 2:47 PM 

Dems blister tort reform bill

Senate Dems today attacked the guv's liability law overhaul, saying it would make it harder to prosecute crimes, shield bad actors and burden the state's court system. They also complained it had nothing to do with creating jobs.

Sen. Fred Risser complained Republicans were trying to rush through the bill. Following a 10-hour public hearing last week, Republicans only had a half-hour executive session on the bill and were already moving forward on a final vote with a proper airing.

"I tell you this is a gamble of legislative malpractice if there ever was one," said Risser, D-Madison.

The Senate amended the bill to limit punitive damages to $200,000 or twice any compensatory damages, whichever is greater, to ensure the cap on punitive damages does not apply to drunken drivers, change state standards for expert witness and to limit application of the new standards to any suits brought after its passage.

But Republicans turned back Dem amendments that would have maintained current standards for witness testimony in court cases and increase the cap on punitive damages at $750,000 instead.

Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, complained the changes for witness testimony would prohibit rookie police officers from testifying in a criminal case because they would not be considered experts as well as nurses who examine rape victims.

"How does prohibiting a police officer from testifying in a court case involving a drunk driver create jobs in this state?" she asked.


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