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May 29th, 2013

ATRA Urges Reform of Wisconsin’s ‘Outlier’ Lemon Law

Says Applying Brakes to Runaway Lawyers Good for Consumers, Auto Industry

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                    CONTACT: Darren McKinney (202) 682-0084

Washington, DC, May 29, 2013 — With the Assembly Judiciary Committee poised to take up a bill that would reform Wisconsin’s “outlier” lemon law, the American Tort Reform Association today offered its support of the legislation, saying “current law accrues too often to the outsized benefit of certain self-proclaimed ‘lemon lawyers’ while it threatens important auto industry jobs and protects consumers no better than more balanced laws in other states.”

ATRA president Tiger Joyce said, “Assembly Bill 200, and its companion, Senate Bill 182, will remove the threat of automatic double damages in current law, which drives unscrupulous personal injury lawyers to obstruct good-faith efforts by manufacturers and effectively punishes any manufacturer who dares to defend such efforts in court.

“Rep. Bill Kramer and Sen. Jerry Petrowski deserve credit for courageously conceding that Wisconsin’s current lemon law is the least fair and balanced in the nation, and as such is an unnecessary threat to the state’s auto industry.  Rather than providing giant jackpots for lawyers who sometimes view their clients’ interests as secondary to their own,” Joyce said, referring to Betz v. Diamond Jim’s Auto Sales, a case now on appeal to Wisconsin’s Supreme Court, “this sound reform legislation puts the focus on making car and truck buyers happy with their purchases.

“The proposed reforms take nothing away from consumers,” Joyce continued.  “They’d retain their right to pursue a lawsuit, to collect damages and reasonable attorney fees, and Wisconsin courts would still be free to order additional equitable relief as they see fit.  In fact, this legislation does nothing other than apply the brakes to runaway lawyers, whose costly antics are ultimately paid for by all car and truck buyers.”

Among other things, AB 200/SB 182 would clarify the definition of “out of service,” reasonably provide more time for a duly diligent dealer to replace a defective vehicle with a comparable vehicle, reset the deadline if a consumer changes her mind about wanting a refund or comparable vehicle, appropriately require that a consumer’s refund request to a manufacturer be accompanied by a Department of Motor Vehicles-approved form with all necessary information, allow negotiated settlements as an alternative to a refund or comparable new vehicle, and establish a 24-month statute of limitations.

-ATRA-

The American Tort Reform Association is the only national organization dedicated exclusively to tort and liability reform through public education and the enactment of legislation. ATRA’s membership includes non profits, small and large companies, as well as state and national trade, business, and professional associations.

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