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South Carolina Senate fails to advance tort reform measure

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(The Center Square) — The South Carolina Senate did not pass a measure aimed at stemming lawsuit abuse, likely killing the push for the legislative session.

Senate Bill 533, the South Carolina Justice Act, would have amended the South Carolina Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act and moved the state toward a model in which a defendant is financially liable based on their percentage of fault. Proponents say this would reduce excessive damage awards in civil cases.

The measure is part of the “Small Business Bill of Rights” the National Federation of Independent Business has been pushing Palmetto State politicians to pass. A motion for cloture failed by a 20-23 margin.

The “vote was disappointing to the many South Carolina small businesses struggling to run their businesses while dealing with record high inflation and an over burdensome legal climate,” NFIB State Director Ben Homeyer said in a statement. “South Carolina’s legal climate is reaching a tipping point that is pushing many small businesses to the brink of closing their doors permanently.

“NFIB and our SC small business members appreciate the strong support from the twenty senators that voted to stand up and protect the small businesses in their communities,” Homeyer added. “While disappointed in the result of today’s vote, we will remain committed to continuing to fight to protect South Carolina small business owner’s right to own, operate, and grow their business and to bring a level judicial playing field to South Carolina.”

Last year, the American Tort Reform Foundation placed South Carolina fifth on its annual list of “Judicial Hellholes,” citing issues surrounding ongoing asbestos litigation.

S.533 “would fix our law so that fewer businesses are forced to pay excessive & disproportionate legal damages, while still providing justice to victims,” the SC Policy Council said in a post to X, formerly Twitter, before the measure failed. “With taxpayer-funded incentives routinely used to benefit large companies, South Carolina can do right by its small- and medium-sized businesses by passing liability reform.”