A bill on it’s way to Gov. Sanford’s desk will help put an end to “litigation tourism” in South Carolina, according to the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA).
The South Carolina House on Wednesday voted to concur with Senate amendments to H. 3008, civil justice reform legislation that includes meaningful venue and joint and several liability reform, among other provisions. Gov. Sanford is expected to sign the bill into law.
“We applaud the South Carolina General Assembly for passing legislation that puts an end to litigation tourism and makes the system more fair and predictable,” said ATRA President Sherman Joyce. “This legislative success further builds upon last month’s South Carolina Supreme Court decision that made it more difficult for personal injury lawyers to abuse the state’s lax venue laws.” (See Feb. 3, 2005 ATRA News Release at www.atra.org.)
The 2004 “Judicial Hellholes®” report ranked Hampton County, South Carolina, the third worst jurisdiction in the United States. Litigation tourists, guided by their personal injury lawyer travel agents, reportedly file their cases in Judicial Hellholes because they know they will receive a favorable award or precedent, or both.
The number of lawsuits filed in Hampton County has nearly doubled in the last five years. Sixty-seven percent of cases filed in Hampton County in 2002 were reportedly filed by residents from other counties and other states.
Major provisions of H. 3008 as passed by the General Assembly include:
* Venue reform. A case can only be heard in the jurisdiction where the alleged injury took place or in the jurisdiction of the defendant’s principal place of business, except if the defendant is a foreign corporation or non- resident defendant.
* Joint and several liability reform. Joint liability only applies if the defendant was 50 percent of more at fault.
* Eight-year statute of repose.
* Post-judgment interest rates are reduced from 12 percent to the prime rate plus 4 percent.
* Sanctions for lawyers who file frivolous lawsuits.
“This success would not have been possible without the great work of South Carolinians for Tort Reform and the South Carolina business community,” Joyce said. “We commend them for their outstanding efforts.”
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