The American Insurance Association (AIA) on Thursday lauded South Carolina legislators for passing a comprehensive tort reform package. Approval of H. 3008 should return balance and predictability to the state’s civil justice system.
“Certain counties in South Carolina have developed a reputation as magnets for frivolous lawsuits and unfair verdicts,” said Raymond Farmer, AIA assistant vice president, Southeast Region. “State leaders saw the growing negative impact that these abuses of the civil justice system were having on a broad cross-section of the state’s business community, from building contractors to large employers. Also, Georgia’s recent passage of tort reform legislation provided that state an additional business recruiting tool that neighboring South Carolina knew it needed to match.”
H. 3008 includes the following features:
• Reduction of the statute of repose from 13 to 8 years for actions regarding improvements to real property;
• Venue reforms, including a requirement that lawsuits be filed in the county where the defendant resides, and defining “residence” for companies as their principal place of business within the state; (the bill also allows foreign corporations to seek a change of venue in the interest of justice and/or the convenience of the witnesses);
• Limitation of frivolous lawsuits through the adoption of a new rule, which provides that the signature of an attorney or party is a representation of a good faith belief in the merits of the case, which must be reasonably supported by the facts; and
• Modification of the use of joint and several liability so that it will apply only to defendants who are more than 50 percent at fault. A defendant who is found to be less than 50 percent at fault is liable only for his percentage of the damages awarded.
H. 3008, passed by the legislature on Wednesday, now goes to Gov. Mark Sanford (R) for his signature, while South Carolina legislators continue their work on separate medical liability reform legislation.
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