SC Tort Reform: Deal Struck?
Seven weeks ago, we humbly suggested that members of the South Carolina Senate get off of their asses and pass a tort reform bill that would keep our state from losing additional competitive ground to our neighbors.
Today, we’re still nowhere on this legislation.
Thanks to an entrenched group of ethically-challenged lawyer-legislators – and hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions – the tort reform bill remains stalled. And believe it or not, that’s evidently been “A-OK” with tort reform advocates – who have been more than happy to keep a bunch of well-heeled South Carolina trial lawyers tied up at the State House.
As this thoroughly unproductive legislative session winds down, though, we’re hearing that both sides are now ready to cut a deal. In fact, sources familiar with the negotiations tell FITS that an agreement has already been reached – it’s just a question of whether lawmakers will be able to get to it in time.
We hope they do.
In early April, S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley and a group of Palmetto business leaders sent a letter to the Senate asking its members to pass the tort reform bill that cleared the S.C. House of Representatives by an overwhelming bipartisan margin … in February.
“To be competitive, South Carolina must adopt legal standards similar to our neighboring states,” Haley wrote in her letter, noting that all of our neighboring states cap non-economic (or punitive) damages.
Haley is correct – this non-controversial bill isn’t about moving our state forward, it’s about keeping us from falling further behind. That’s why it should have been passed months ago.
UPDATE: Negotiations are reportedly “off again” after tort reform advocates are said to have backed off of their latest compromise.
UPDATE II: A trial lawyer familiar with the negotiations says that Haley and tort reform advocates “don’t want a deal” and that Haley would rather “run against lawyers for the next six months.”