Wisconsin tort law has been substantially modified through the passage of 2011 Wisconsin Act 2, which became effective on February 1, 2011. The changes made by this Act benefit businesses in several respects, particularly in the area of product liability.
Sellers and distributors of products are now exposed to liability for product defects only if they assumed responsibility for some portion of the product or its labeling, or if the manufacturer of the product is judgment proof. A plaintiff is required to show some reasonable alternative design was available to a manufacturer in order to make a recovery. The Act imposes a 15 year statute of repose, i.e. claims may not be brought with respect to products manufactured more than 15 years before the claim is made.
In addition, punitive damages have been limited to $200,000.00 or twice the amount of compensatory damages awarded, whichever is greater. The law also imposes the so-called Daubert rule to civil litigation in Wisconsin. This rule applies to the use of expert witnesses, and required that it be established that an expert opinion is based on sufficient facts and data and reliable principles and methods in order to be admissible. The rule makes the court a "gatekeeper" with respect to the admissibility of expert opinions, able to bar opinions in some circumstances when it fails to meet the applicable standards. The Act also bans any agreements that an expert’s compensation will be based on the outcome of the action.