The National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC) has applauded Gov. Mark Sanford on his five-point “Contract for Change” initiative for South Carolina, and especially his plan to create a more equitable civil justice system.
Gov. Sanford’s plan reportedly includes lowering the state’s income tax rate to make small businesses more competitive; creating a more efficient, accountable state government; improving educational achievement through increasing flexibility in education spending and school choice; improving the business and healthcare climate through civil justice reforms; and updating Senate rules to make it easier for that body to bring legislation to a vote. Gov. Sanford unveiled his plan Tuesday.
“NAMIC agrees with Gov. Sanford’s assertion that the South Carolina tort liability system is hurting both the business and healthcare communities and needs reforming,” said NAMIC State Affairs Manager David Reddick. “We are committed to working with the Governor and legislators next year to see a more equitable civil justice system for the state that sets fair standards for tort procedures and damages.”
Gov. Sanford has proposed a $300,000 cap on non-economic damages for general and medical liability lawsuits that would be adjusted for inflation. The proposal also includes a sliding cap on punitive damages of three times actual damages, elimination of joint and several liability, a limit on venue shopping, and a provision that would allow defendants in auto accident cases to demonstrate “contributory negligence” by showing that the plaintiff failed to wear a seat belt.
“Governor Sanford’s proposals are similar to those enacted in other states in the past few years and clearly would put South Carolina more in the mainstream of tort liability across the country,” added Reddick.
He added that a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey called South Carolina’s tort liability system the ninth worst in the country.
Reddick also said that in Mississippi, where Gov. Haley Barbour called a special session earlier this year to have legislators enact tort reforms, positive results are beginning to occur.
“Last week, Insurance Commissioner George Dale announced that some large insurers that previously had limited their writings in Mississippi were writing new business as a result of the state’s tort reforms,” said Reddick. “This is proof positive that fair and equitable tort reforms can bring about positive reactions from the business community.”