South Carolina Senate Introduces Landmark Tort Reform Legislation

Columbia, S.C. – Today, the South Carolina Senate introduced legislation to reform the Palmetto State’s unfair civil liability laws. The bill, long advocated for by South Carolina’s business community, is critical to ensuring that South Carolina remains competitive in recruiting and retaining job creators in the state while continuing to protect injured South Carolinians.

“This legislation is critically important to South Carolina businesses and should be a top priority for the General Assembly to debate this legislative session,” said South Carolina Coalition for Lawsuit Reform (“SCCLR”) President and General Counsel Tom Mullikin. “Without this legislation, South Carolina may lose economic development projects to neighboring states like Georgia and North Carolina where liability laws are more balanced.”

The bill, S.533, titled The South Carolina Justice Act, modernizes the way South Carolina’s liability laws work to ensure businesses are only responsible for paying damages equivalent to their share of fault in civil lawsuits. Current South Carolina law can leave a defendant on the hook for all damages in a lawsuit regardless of their percentage of fault. This system adversely impacts businesses - including small businesses that cannot survive a hefty lawsuit - leading to increased premiums, reduced availability of insurance coverage, and a target on entities that are perceived as having “deep pockets.”

“The current system in South Carolina penalizes businesses, especially small businesses, at the expense of a handful of trial attorneys,” said Elizabeth Trenbeath, President of Snelling Staffing Services of the Midlands and current NFIB Leadership Committee chair. “My business is always one lawsuit away from going out of business. This bill is an important step in the right direction to making sure we will be able to keep our employees on the payroll in the event of a lawsuit.”

The legislation, introduced by South Carolina Senate President Thomas Alexander, is cosponsored by several South Carolina senators, including numerous Senate committee chairs. The bill is also supported by many of South Carolina’s pro-business advocacy organizations.

The South Carolina Coalition for Lawsuit Reform serves as the united voice for the business community on tort and workers’ compensation issues; coordinating lobbying, legal, grassroots, and public relations activities.

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