On December 7, 2011, Wisconsin’s Governor, Scott Walker, signed into law a provision that will limit the amount of attorney fees that can be awarded to three times the amount of compensatory damages awarded. While the new law was designed to protect those who create jobs from facing unduly harsh legal fees, the most common area cited by those discussing the law came in the area of what is known as Wisconsin’s Lemon Law.
Under that statute, one who purchases a vehicle that turns out to be a "lemon" can not only recover the cost of the vehicle, but also the attorney fees involved in making the recovery. Now, with a limit of three times compensatory damages, many buyers of a "lemon" vehicle will find it hard to find an attorney who is willing to handle the matter on a contingent fee basis and accept the amount of fees awarded by the court.
If that were the end, it would be a pretty limited statute. However, as pointed out in a recent article by the State Bar of Wisconsin, the new law affects 280 different statutes and laws.
Wisconsin has tried things in the past to protect various classes of people. When in 1975, it enacted the Patients’ Compensation Panel and limited the recoveries patients may obtain from their negligent doctors, it was said that this law was needed to keep good doctors in Wisconsin and to keep the cost of medical care and insurance down for the average Wisconsin citizen. Wisconsin has not benefitted from lower medical costs or lower insurance premiums, and I doubt that this new law which protects another class from having to pay for their mistakes will have any beneficial effect upon job creation, as well.
If you face a decision as to whether to sue, and you are facing the limitations of any of the 280 laws so affected, please don’t hesitate contacting us for assistance in making a fully informed decision.