An interesting observation from the Cap Times on the tort reform bill that passed the Senate yesterday:
For a bill designed to make it easier for Wisconsin businesses to operate without the fear of a lawsuit, there was a surprising lack of business owners who turned out to testify on its behalf.
That may be because, as Sen. Jon Erpenbach quipped in an interview with The Sconz yesterday, "the bill was passed in about 10 minutes." According to the Middleton Democrat, the GOP is rushing the legislation, which will go into effect only 10 days after it's passed, to avoid public and legal scrutiny.
This was especially funny, however.
Thomas "Cap" Wulf, the president of Wulf Brothers Inc., a Door County-based heating and cooling company, claimed the current court system forces him and other state business owners to operate in an "atmosphere of fear."
After Wulf finished testifying, panel member Rep. Tony Staskunas, D-West Allis, asked him if he had ever sued anybody.
"No," Wulf said.
Public court records, however, indicate Wulf is no stranger to the legal system.
He has filled 11 cases in small claims court for amounts ranging from $84.61 to roughly $4,000 since 1992, according to online court records. He did so as the president of the heating and cooling company and as the registered agent of three other businesses.
It's hard for me, a mere citizen whose understanding of civil law derives largely from Liar, Liar, to come to a decision on what types of restraints and caps should exist for torts. However, an interesting theory a friend of mine offered is that removing caps (or at least allowing for very high ones) could be the most effective and least expensive form of regulation on businesses. When firms operate with the knowledge that they're vulnerable to lawsuits, they are less likely to misbehave, and as a result, the government spends less time investigating violations.