The Upstate Chamber Coalition recently sent a letter to Peter McCoy (R-Charleston), the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, urging him to hold a hearing on H. 3758, or the Fair Share Bill. Due to the unintended consequences caused by the “Joint and Several” legislation passed in 2005, plaintiffs are currently suing defendants with the deepest pockets and forcing them to pay all or a majority portion of the damages, regardless of their portion of fault.
The result has significantly increased the legal burden on all businesses and their respective insurance companies. Passing H. 3758 is critical to the business community and the legislature’s failure to do so will present a significant challenge for economic development.
The UCC position for 2019 is:
Overturn “Plaintiff Chooses”: The General Assembly needs to re-institute the “joint and several” protections in court cases involving multiple parties. We should ensure that businesses with a small impact on an injury do not shoulder 100% of the financial burden because they have deep pockets.
Below is the letter sent to Chairman McCoy, Speaker of the House Jay Lucas, H. 3758 Sponsors, and the Upstate members of the House of Representatives. Click here to see the letter.
South Carolina Civil Justice Coalition, Fair Share Bill Explainer Video
April 18, 2019
Chairman Peter McCoy
House Judiciary Committee
512 Blatt Building
Columbia, SC 29211
Dear Chairman McCoy:
In 2017, the South Carolina Supreme Court misconstrued the language in 2005’s “Joint and Several” legislation which intended to fully apportion fault to all parties in a tort claim that contributed to the injuries or damages to a plaintiff. Twelve years after the legislation was passed by the General Assembly, the Court found there were conflicting words in the statute that prohibited the assignment of fault to any party who isn’t named in the lawsuit.
Unanimously, the Court found that the result of the decision was unfair and inequitable but that the responsibility for changing policy rests with the General Assembly.
The result is that plaintiffs are already suing defendants with the deepest pockets for 100 percent of a claim, which is unfairly increasing the legal burden on all businesses, large and small, and the insurance companies that insure them. This is happening without regard to whether the business was 90 percent at fault or 5 percent at fault. This was never the intent of the General Assembly, and it was never the intent of the 2005 agreement that allowed this legislation to move forward. By reversing the intent of the legislation, our state has taken a great leap backward in judicial fairness. As we scrap and fight for new, higher-paying jobs against other states, being one of only a few states that doesn’t fairly apportion fault will be a significant challenge for economic development.
Chairman Hiott’s Fair Share Bill (H. 3758) fixes this injustice and will apportion fault to all parties and ensure a party with less than 50 percent of fault will not be forced to pay 100 percent of damages. However, a party found to be more than 50 percent at fault will still be liable to pay more than their fair share. Furthermore, it does not increase the liability of a party the plaintiff settles with before the trial.
We want to thank Speaker Lucas and Chairman Hiott for taking up this cause and understanding the need to fix this unfortunate ruling. The Upstate business community respectfully asks for a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on this legislation and that we get this crucial piece of legislation to the House floor for a vote. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us or any of our partners with the South Carolina Coalition for Lawsuit Reform.
Government Affairs Manager
cc: Speaker Lucas, House Judiciary Committee, Upstate Delegation, H. 3758 Sponsors