March 17, 2004

Cheeseburgers, helmets, and protecting what's lawful

It's the end of the legislative session in Wisconsin, and bills are being sent fast and furious to Gov. Jim Doyle for his signature. There are two that caught my interest, as the combination of positions that Gov. Doyle takes on them would appear to make sense only if you're a plaintiff's lawyer.

Firstly, he approved a bill that would ban juries from counting the failure to wear a helmet as contributory negligence (thus reducing damages) in the event of a motorcycle, ATV, or snowmobile accident. (See Tom Sheehan, "Doyle Signs Helmet Bill Into Law", Wisconsin State Journal, Mar. 16). The relevant quote: "'What we're saying in Wisconsin is, if you do something that is in compliance with the law, under this bill it's not going to be held against you. I think juries can decide what the damages are they want to award,' Doyle said after signing Senate Bill 223."

He then turned around and vetoed a law that would have protected resturants and food producers from obesity lawsuits. (See "Gov To Veto Obese-lawsuit Ban ", Capital Times, recent undated). Relevant quote: "'I think the courts can adequately sort these kind of lawsuits out,' he said Monday."

It doesn't take a whack in the head (with helmet or without) to realize who some of his biggest campaign contributors have been. -- Dan Wendlick, Madison, Wis.

Posted by Walter Olson at March 17, 2004 11:18 PM