Tort reform package becomes law in South Carolina

By John O'Brien | Jun 17, 2011


COLUMBIA, S.C. (Legal Newsline) - South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley recently signed a tort reform measure concerning appeal bonds and punitive damages into law.

Tuesday, Haley signed H. 3375 into law two weeks after the Senate voted 39-0 to in favor of its passage and the House of Representatives approved it with a 99-16 vote. A loophole in a 2008 law regarding the state's statute of repose was also clarified.

Carolinas AGC and the South Carolina Civil Justice Coalition backed the bill, which states that a building code violation cannot increase the statute of repose to 13 years from its normal eight years.

The bill provides limitations on actions based on unsafe or defective improvements to real property.

"Carolinas AGC fought for this legislation because it increases our state's ability to be economically competitive and helps protect our members from frivolous lawsuits," said Leslie Hope, director of South Carolina Government Relations and Divisions for Carolinas AGC.

The bill also says:

-Punitive damages must be specifically prayed for in the complaint;

-Punitive damages must be granted in a separate trial and only if compensatory or nominal damages have already been awarded;

-The trial court shall review any award of punitive damages and determine if any caps - such as four times the amount of compensatory damages -- apply;

-Circuit solicitors must obtain the attorney general's permission to hire outside counsel for a civil cause of action;

-Disclosure of insurance policy limits for personal auto policies in accident cases is required;

-An appeal bond limit of $25 million will apply to businesses with 50 or more employees and gross revenue of more than $5 million; and

-An appeal bond limit of $1 million for all other entities.

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