New Report Labels S.C. County as a ‘Judicial Hellhole’

December 20, 2004

A report released last week by the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) identifies Hampton County, South Carolina as one of the nation’s nine “judicial hellholes,” further emphasizing the need for passage of comprehensive civil justice reform legislation in 2005, according to the American Insurance Association (AIA).

Judicial hellholes are those jurisdictions across the country where the law is not applied fairly to all parties. As defined by ATRA, judicial hellholes are places that have a disproportionately harmful impact on civil litigation. “Judicial hellholes are a nightmare for businesses and consumers, but a dream come true for trial lawyers,” said Raymond Farmer, AIA assistant vice president, southeast region. “The deck is stacked in their favor in these destructive jurisdictions, through favorable rulings and verdicts that encourage frivolous lawsuits and unfair financial windfalls.”

The results of this report should reportedly serve as a wake-up call to South Carolina’s elected officials – states with jurisdictions designated as judicial hellholes often experience harmful economic side effects that are very damaging to businesses and consumers, including higher costs of goods and services, higher insurance premiums, reduced wages, loss of employment opportunities and reduced access to health care.

To that end, in 2005 AIA is advocating passage of comprehensive tort reform in South Carolina, including venue reform, abolishment of joint and several liability, sanctions for frivolous lawsuits, and reducing the time limit within which a lawsuit must be filed.

“The good news for South Carolina is that out-of-balance tort systems can be fixed,” continued Farmer. “This was the case most recently in Mississippi; after years in the national spotlight as a judicial hellhole, the legislature this year passed comprehensive civil justice reform. Mississippi is now in the headlines for all the right reasons as insurers and other businesses bring additional jobs and investment to the state. AIA will be working with our civil justice coalition partners to bring this same success to South Carolina during next year’s legislative session.”

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