Testimony of Ann S. Jacobs
Wisconsin Association for Justice
Before the Assembly Judiciary Committee
December 17, 2015
2015 Assembly Bill 174
Good morning, my name is Ann Jacobs. I live and work in Milwaukee where I am the owner of Jacobs Injury Law, S.C. I am the immediate past president of the Wisconsin Association for Justice and a member of its board of directors. On behalf of the association, I am here to speak on AB-174. As always, it is a privilege and honor to testify before this committee.
To begin, we appreciate the opportunity to review and comment on the most recent substitute amendment to this bill. I testified previously before the Senate on the original version of this bill and I am pleased to say the substitute makes several improvements to the bill. However, we continue to have concerns about unintended consequences that will result from way this bill has been drafted. Our concerns center on how the bill treats comparative negligence.
Under current law, a campground owner already has very strong protections against being held responsible for harm they did not cause. As you know, Wisconsin is a comparative negligence state. See Wis. Stat. § 895.045(1) (2013-14) (Comparative Negligence). Under this system, a campground owner is only responsible for the percentage of harm they cause, but only when they have caused harm.
Here’s how it works. When a case is tried, juries are asked who is at-fault, and then are asked to assign a percentage to each actor. For cases that are resolved through settlements, the vast majority of cases, attorneys on both sides also apply this type of analysis. The goal in either setting is to allocate responsibility. The comparative negligence statute is designed precisely to strike a fair balance between protecting the injured and holding wrongdoers responsible.
Language in this bill eliminates the balanced approach of our comparative negligence regime in a way that will have serious consequences for those visiting Wisconsin campgrounds.