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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 78, No. 12, December 2005


    Letters to the editor: The Wisconsin Lawyer publishes as many letters in each issue as space permits. Please limit letters to 500 words; letters may be edited for length and clarity. Letters should address the issues, and not be a personal attack on others. Letters endorsing political candidates cannot be accepted. Please mail letters to " Letters to the Editor," Wisconsin Lawyer, P.O. Box 7158, Madison, WI 53707-7158, fax them to (608) 257-4343, or org wislawyer wisbar email them.

    Additional Drunk Driving Punishment Would be Unevenly Applied

    The rather angry tone of the letter, "Injury by Drunk Driving Deserves Punitive Damages Award" (October 2005), relating to punitive damages in auto accidents in which one of the drivers is under the influence of alcohol, is easily transmitted to the jury when the plaintiff is seeking an award much larger than the injuries warrant. Of course those extra damages will be sought only against a person who has assets.

    This means that the additional punishment over and above the criminal case will be dished out only in very selected cases and will be based solely on the ability to pay. Those driving under the influence without assets need not worry; lawyers are unlikely to chase an empty pocket. Fender-bender accidents and personal injuries that have totally healed, usually easily settled, will now take on a new dimension with expensive legal bills for discovery (which often is abusive in these cases) and costly appeals looking at very uncertain developments in the law. We do have a criminal justice system for these cases and to add supplementary civil liability is just all about money, including fees.

    On one item the letter writer and I do agree. The legislature should act, but any new law should make it clear that all punitive damages in auto accident cases are eliminated. The law desperately needs some bright lines in litigation and this would be a good place to start.

    David Leo Uelmen