A state Senate subcommittee has been working for days to get a tort reform bill ready for when the legislature gets back to work next month. The Senate Judiciary subcommittee has vetted the entire bill now and will meet again in January in order to introduce it to the greater committee.
Bill sponsor and subcommittee Chairman Larry Martin says the measure would create a better legal environment in the state for business, keeping liability lawsuits under control.
“It’s a huge benefit to our economic development, the creation of jobs, what we ought to be about as we enter into this legislative session and try to bring business to South Carolina. This can only help,” Martin says.
This proposed legislation, says the Pickens Senator, is a continuation of the sweeping reforms approved in 2005. Recent debates on the bill have focused on two points: the economic loss rule and liabilities for defective products –and an issue called the corporate veil.
Tort reform will be an ever changing need, says Senator Martin, because of what he calls the tension between the judiciary and legislative branches of government. “As a matter of fact, there are two court decisions since 2005 that are in this bill that we’re attempting to address. This is an ongoing thing that we will always be faced with,” he says, “and that is, going back and evaluating case law as it develops and determine whether that is the way we want to see our tort law play out over time.”
The reform bill was introduced early this year and got slowed down in a session filled with stimulus battles and some other hotly debated bills. Martin says that because of budget limits, they have not had much time to go over this complicated bill.
There are 11 sections of the bill, and all civil law issues that need to be addressed, says Martin: “I anticipate that once we get the bill to the full judiciary committee, it’ll be tough to get that bill to the floor in one meeting. It’ll probably take a couple of meetings, then once we get it to the floor you’re most likely looking at a couple of days of debate. It’s a huge bill and a huge effort to get it through both houses this session.”