Special Session Launches New Attacks on Consumer Rights

We need more jobs in Wisconsin. If Gov. Walker’s Special Session was just about jobs, we wouldn’t be writing you today. However, three of the bills buried in the Special Session “fine print” have nothing whatsoever to do with jobs and in fact slam the courthouse doors shut for thousands of Wisconsin citizens. Let’s take a closer look: (Note: Bills move quickly through a Special Session and may be amended at any time. This information focuses on the original bills and their impact on you, your family and your friends.)

No Penalty For Making Drugs That Injure People The drug and medical device bill (SS-13) provides legal immunity for damages caused by defective drugs and medical devices in certain circumstances. Wisconsin residents injured as a result of a defective drug or medical device where the company has failed to warn of a problem would not be able to use the courts to hold manufacturers accountable for their injuries. Reasons to oppose: Residents in 48 states could still hold a foreign or national drug or medical device manufacturer accountable for their injuries or death. The only people prevented from suing are Wisconsin residents who are injured or die from a defective drug or medical device. The FDA has consistently failed to require drug effectiveness and safety data on women and children, even when prescription drugs are marketed to these groups. Yet, the FDA’s history with medical devices and drugs that have an adverse impact on women is dismal: DES, Thalidomide, Dalkon Shield IUD, Ortho Evra and now vaginal meshes. Follow SS-13 here. Write your representative (see sample letters). Banks, Credit Card Companies Collect In Full, You Don't The interest rate bill (SS-14) will change the interest rate for those injured in a car accident or ripped off in a consumer transaction to the prime rate plus one percent (presently 4.25 percent) but leave it at 12 percent for a bank, credit card company or utility collecting a debt. It is unfair to single out injured citizens in this fashion. Other reasons to oppose: For the first time in Wisconsin’s history, the Legislature is attempting to distinguish the interest rates on civil judgments based on the type of case brought. It singles out judgments in tort cases and consumer actions for a lower interest rate than any others. By comparison, the Legislature refuses to limit interest rates for payday loan operators – with some charging as much as 446 to 1,338 percent annually – but propose to limit an individual’s interest rate on a judgment to 4.25 percent. Follow SS-14 here. Write your representative (see sample letters). Unfair Business Practices Go Unpunished The bill capping attorney’s fees (SS-12) could eliminate the rights of middle and low-income consumers from receiving justice in many cases. These are cases where the consumer may be out only several hundred dollars – landlord tenant issues or door-to-door sales. Lawyers representing the person who has been wronged would be limited to only three times that amount of money involved as attorney fees. Other reasons to oppose: The award of attorney fees “supplies the teeth” to enforcing consumer laws in Wisconsin. Without it, access to the courts by injured consumers is reduced. Because many harmful violations will not be prosecuted, it will encourage unfair business practices by companies, whose attorneys fees would not be limited, and make protecting consumer rights even harder. Follow SS-12 here. Write your representative (see sample letters).