The editorialists of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel are hardly known for avid litigation-reform enthusiasm, but they agree that the Wisconsin Supreme Court's recent decision opening the floodgates on lead paint liability (OL Jul. 23) went too far:
With due respect to its diligence and understanding of the law, the state Supreme Court goofed in July on lead paint. In an overzealous attempt to protect the public, the court went out on a limb so perilously thin that it leaves companies that may be innocent in product liability lawsuits vulnerable to economically damaging suits....
This is grossly unfair to the paint industry and sets a dangerous precedent that, as WMC points out, could leave other Wisconsin industries open to similar suits that may be almost impossible to defend against. And because the ruling appears to be the first of its kind in the nation, it could put these companies at an enormous competitive disadvantage.
The state legislature has been moving to correct the paint decision and also have responded to the state supreme court's lawless decision (Jul. 14, Jul. 19, Aug. 11, Aug. 16, Aug. 30) striking down medical malpractice damage limits by re-enacting the damage limits at a substantially higher level (Journal-Sentinel, Insurance Journal coverage). Both measures, however, face an uncertain fate on the desk of Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, who is considered close to the litigation lobby.