April 25, 2018

New Litigation Bill Significantly Impacts Plaintiffs’ Discovery Rights

On April 03, 2018, Governor Scott Walker signed Assembly Bill (AB) 733 into law. AB 733 is a sweeping reform of the rules that govern civil litigation in the state. Among other things, the reforms will affect the discovery rights of plaintiffs in personal injury lawsuits starting July 1 of this year. During the discovery process in a product liability lawsuit, the injured party is entitled to ask the manufacturer to hand over all the documentation relating to the design and production of its supposedly dangerous vehicles. This can be a difficult task. The manufacturer might need to place significant resources towards collecting, organizing, and delivering the requested information. On the other hand, the plaintiff’s legal team cannot formulate its legal strategy and arguments without this information. AB 733 changes the process under which an injured party can access this information.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident or by a dangerous product, contact the Wisconsin personal injury lawyers of Studinski Law, LLC at (715) 343-2850 to schedule a free and confidential case consultation.

How Does AB 733 Affect Discovery Rights?

The reform makes highly technical changes to the discovery process, but these changes can greatly affect litigation strategy and case outcomes. Some of the changes include:

Defining the General Scope of Discovery
In Wisconsin, plaintiffs have the right to obtain documents on any non-privileged matter that is relevant to the lawsuit, so long as it is proportional to the case. What is “proportional” depends on the relative importance of the issues in the case, the likelihood of discovery to help resolve those issues, the amount of money at stake, the ability of the parties to access information, the parties’ resources, and whether the difficulties in obtaining the information outweigh the likely benefits to the case. The information sought in discovery does not need to meet the requirements of admissibility under the rules of evidence.

Limiting the Extent of Discovery
A party in a lawsuit can ask the court to impose restrictions on the extent and frequency of discovery. This is possible where that party can demonstrate that the discovery request is repetitive, or that the information sought can be obtained from more convenient sources. Alternatively, discovery can be limited when the expense of the discovery request outweighs the potential benefits, or when the request is not proportional to the amount of money involved, the parties’ resources, or the complexity of the issues in the case. In short, the legislation gives parties subject to discovery the ability to seek relief from onerous requests. But in some cases, this might make it harder for plaintiffs to get the information they need to successfully litigate their cases.

Automatic Stay of Discovery
The ability to make requests for discovery lapses 180 days after filing motions to dismiss, motions for judgment on the pleadings, or motions for more definite statement. Alternatively, the ability to make discovery requests ends as soon as the court makes a ruling on one of these motions. At its discretion, the court may allow discovery to continue after these deadlines, but only if the requesting party shows good cause.

Limiting the Production of Electronically-Stored Information
A party does not have to comply with a discovery request for old data that requires re-programming or re-formatting in order to be retrieved. Additionally, any other data that is not accessible in the normal course of business is affected. For example, a company would likely not need to comply with a discovery request if it covers minutes of board meetings stored in microfiches in a separate facility. However, the company may be forced to comply with the discovery request for these microfiches if the other party can show that they are somehow necessary to the case.

Limitation of Discovery Methods
Unless otherwise ordered by the court, discovery is limited to 10 depositions, each of which may not exceed seven hours. A party can request the production of documents dating back five years prior to the incident that is the cause of the lawsuit. However, this limitation does not apply to educational and vocational records.

How Will These Rules Affect Plaintiffs’ Discovery Rights?

Personal injury lawyers will need to reassess their strategies in light of these reforms. Since the ability to make requests for discovery has been somewhat narrowed, more forethought must go into these requests. So long as plaintiffs choose lawyers who understand and compensate for the new rules, their cases will not be negatively affected. If a case is likely to rely on intensive discovery, it may be desirable to begin the process now, because the new rules will go into effect on July 1.

Call Studinski Law, LLC Today

If you or a family member has been injured, a Wisconsin personal injury lawyer can help you get the compensation you deserve. At Studinski Law, LLC, we have a proven track record of obtaining compensation for the medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and property damage of our clients. To find out more about your discovery rights during a lawsuit and how we can help you get back on your feet after an accident, contact us today at (715) 343-2850 for your free consultation.

Jason Studinski Injury Attorney
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