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State GOP Leaders to Review Legal Liability Reform Bill

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MADISON, Wis. (WTAQ) - State Republican leaders say they’ll review the governor’s legal liability reform bill, after being told it could protect drunk drivers in civil cases.

At a public hearing Tuesday, the step-father of an Oconomowoc teacher killed in one of the state’s most notorious drunk driving crashes said the bill would make it almost impossible to win punitive damages in OWI cases.

Paul Jenkins, step-father of Jennifer Bukosky, said plaintiffs would basically have to prove that defendants intended to cause injury to collect punitive damages.

Bukosky was killed in 2008 by three-time drunk driver Mark Benson, who was under a mix of medications when his car rear-ended the popular teacher and killed her, a 10-year-old daughter, and an unborn child. Benson, a former doctor, is spending 30 years in prison for that crash.

The chairman of the committee holding yesterday’s hearing, Assembly Republican Jim Ott of Mequon, agreed that a protection for drunk drivers could be a concern. He promised to address it before the bill goes to the entire Assembly.

Walker’s office said it would also review the measure. Other critics of the bill said it would hurt victims’ efforts to get justice, while business owners testified the measure would reduce some of their biggest worries.

Walker said trial lawyers were releasing what he called “subjective information” about the negative effects of his bill. He said they make a lot of money from liability cases, and they’re the main ones affected financially.

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