Wisconsin Governor Vetoes Bill Placing $1M Cap on Litigation

State Trucking Association Vows to Try Again in January
Vehicles in Wisconsin
Tractor-trailers and other vehicles travel on Interstate 39/90 in Wisconsin. (Wisconsin Department of Transportation)

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Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has vetoed a bill that would have put a $1 million cap on awards for noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering in lawsuits stemming from commercial motor vehicle accidents.

In a March 29 statement, Evers said he was vetoing the legislation, passed Feb. 20, because he objects to arbitrarily capping the noneconomic damages that a person may recover from a commercial motor carrier for “injury, death or other loss resulting from an act or omission by an employee of a commercial motor vehicle carrier while acting within the scope of employment.”

“A fundamental principle of our legal system is that everyone is entitled to remedies in the law for all injuries, and when it comes to remedy, the law should redress a party’s injury, not repress an injured party,” Evers wrote. “I am concerned this bill fundamentally violates this principle as well as equal protection guarantees and due process rights under the United States and Wisconsin constitutions.

“Finally, I am vetoing this bill because I object to legislation that is inconsistent with current law. Even if the bill withstood constitutional scrutiny, its incongruity with current law will create implementation issues and make it subject to litigation. Courts would almost certainly face challenges implementing the bill’s provisions as this incongruity welcomes continuous litigation.”

Tony Evers


Evers’ veto of the bill came after passage in the State Senate on Feb. 20 with mostly the support of Republicans, and in a voice vote in the State Assembly.

The veto drew immediate criticism from American Trucking Associations, which has supported the legislation.

“Gov. Evers’ veto of this common-sense reform was a missed opportunity to ensure that justice and fairness determine accident litigation outcomes in Wisconsin, not profits,” ATA Chief Advocacy and Public Affairs Officer Ed Gilroy said. “The trucking industry is the linchpin of our supply chain and economy that provides over 180,000 Wisconsin jobs.

Edwin Gilroy


“When the plaintiffs’ bar perverts civil litigation, the costs are borne by everyone, not just trucking companies, but consumers, too, in the form of higher insurance rates and higher prices for everyday goods. By allowing rampant lawsuit abuse to continue, Gov. Evers is impeding the trucking industry’s ability to operate safely and efficiently.”

According to the American Transportation Research Institute, nuclear jury verdicts against motor carriers — those totaling at least $10 million — have been on the rise.

“We’re disappointed, but not discouraged,” Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association President Neal Kedzie said. “We’re proud of the fact that we were able to pass the bill through both houses of the Legislature. But unfortunately, we didn’t quite get across the goal line with our governor.”

Kedzie disagreed with the governor that limiting the cap was unconstitutional.



“Wisconsin does have caps on noneconomic damages for medical malpractice lawsuits,” Kedzie said. “So this is not unique to Wisconsin.”

He said the bill is about protecting small businesses since the large majority of trucking companies in the state have only a small number of power units.

Kedzie added, “Nuclear verdicts can put these companies out of business with the snap of a finger.”

He said the association and the business groups that are part of a coalition that was pushing for the cap limit bill are determined to raise the issue again when the Legislature gets back in session in January.

“We’re ready to coalesce around a new draft this next session, and we will start the process all over again,” Kedzie said.

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