July 18, 2019

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Wisconsin Product Liability Law

Defective Product Claims in Wisconsin

Wisconsin product liability law underwent major changes in 2011, when the Omnibus Tort Reform Act (OTRA) was signed into law, making defective product injury lawsuits more challenging for victims and their loved ones. Wisconsin law is now more similar to product liability in other states. Defective products can be involved in all types of accidents and injuries, such as auto accidents, pharmaceutical injuries, and accidents which at first appear to be premises liability issues such as elevator malfunction and fires.

Basis for Wisconsin Product Liability Law Claims

In Wisconsin, a product liability lawsuit must be brought based on one of the following:

  • Manufacturing defect
  • Design defect
  • Failure to warn

To establish design defect or failure to warn you must show that there was a reasonable alternative design or warning and that the manufacturer’s failure to use it made the product dangerous.


The defendant or defendants in your case may try to use the following to fight your claim:

  • If your injury was caused by an inherent characteristic of the product which is recognized by typical users, by law the case must be dismissed
  • If modified, altered, or misused the product you may be considered partly to blame for your injuries, if so, under Wisconsin’s comparative negligence law, your compensation will be reduced by your percentage of negligence and if you were more than 50% to blame you are barred from recovering compensation
  • If you were intoxicated when the injury occurred, the court will assume that your intoxication caused your injury unless you can prove otherwise
  • If the product complied with state or federal standards when it was sold, the court will assume that the product was not defective unless you can prove that it was
  • a seller or distributor cannot be held responsible if the product was sealed when they received it and they were not able to test or inspect it

Time Limits

There are two important time limits for bringing a Wisconsin product liability lawsuit. The statute of limitations is three years from the date of injury or from the date that you knew or should have known that the product caused your injury.

The statute of repose further limits the amount of time you have by barring claims for injuries occurring more than 15 years after the product was manufactured unless the manufacturer has represented the product as lasting more than 15 years. There is an exception to the statute of repose for diseases such as mesothelioma.