Reform Bill Would Lower Debilitating Litigation Costs for Wisconsin Businesses and Government

Business groups across Wisconsin and the nation applaud the efforts of Reps. Born and Nygren and Sens. Tiffany and Craig that build on Wisconsin’s past tort reform successes. Among other reforms, their legislation addresses the most pressing civil litigation challenge – escalating transactional costs relating to discovery.

The heart of this litigation reform initiative is aligning Wisconsin’s civil procedures for discovery and class actions to the corresponding federal rules. The modernization of these court procedures, mostly aimed at costly discovery practices, will reduce litigation costs for small and large businesses, as well as state and local governments who must spend taxpayers’ dollars responding to abusive discovery practices.

Uniformity between the state and federal rules makes it easier for both plaintiffs and defendants. It enhances predictability and provides judges with a larger body of case law upon which to draw. This is particularly helpful to Wisconsin Circuit Court judges.

These common-sense discovery reforms will do the following:

• Make it clear that both courts and parties have an obligation to pursue the just, speedy, and inexpensive resolution of each case.

• Establish cost-benefit and proportionality requirements for discovery to prevent litigants from abusing the discovery process to leverage a
higher potential settlement or engage in a “fishing expedition.”

• Put on hold discovery and other proceedings pending the court’s decision on a motion to dismiss or other dispositive motions, protecting parties from costly discovery in cases that may be dismissed or where refinement of the pleadings may clarify the allegations and scope of relevant discovery.

• Provide notice of third-party litigation financing, if the financier has a right to receive compensation that is contingent on and sourced from
the outcome of the action. Such third party finance can increase the cost of litigation and cause suits to be brought that would not
otherwise have been financially justified.

• Limit discovery of electronically stored information (ESI) to address the escalating volume of ESI that is now one of the most significant
discovery-related costs.

• Unless otherwise stipulated or ordered by the court, limit discovery to 25 interrogatories, 10 depositions, none of which may exceed 7 hours
in duration, and a look-back period of not more than 5 years prior to the accrual of the cause of action.