Group says South Carolina fifth worst ‘Judicial Hellhole’ nationwide



(The Center Square) — A new report has placed South Carolina among the top “Judicial Hellholes” nationwide.

The American Tort Reform Foundation ranked the Palmetto State fifth on its annual list, citing issues surrounding ongoing asbestos litigation. It first added South Carolina to its list in 2020, and asbestos filings have “risen dramatically” since 2018, making the state a destination for out-of-state law firms.

“In the past three years, the state has cemented an unwelcome reputation for bias against corporate defendants, unwarranted sanctions, low evidentiary requirements, liability expanding rulings, unfair trials, severe verdicts, a willingness to overturn or modify jury verdicts to benefit plaintiffs, and frequent appointment of a receiver to maximize recoveries from insurers,” according to the report. “The state is a hotspot for asbestos claims.”

The state director of the National Federation of Independent Business group said lawmakers should pass S.533, which the South Carolina Policy Council says could help reduce how many businesses “pay unfair damage awards in civil cases,” even if it doesn’t “entirely fix the underlying problem.”

In a new report, the SCPC said small and medium-sized companies could be required to pay entire legal verdicts even if they were only partially at fault, a concept known as “joint and several” liability. The group previously told The Center Square it wants state lawmakers to move toward a several-liability model where a defendant is financially liable based upon their percentage of fault.

“Small businesses are especially vulnerable when it comes to fending off frivolous legal claims,” NFIB State Director Ben Homeyer said in a statement. “The cost of defending themselves against a single claim can be enough to put them out of business, even if the case is eventually thrown out of court.

“Our members will continue to urge their legislators to support S.533 when the General Assembly gavels into session next month,” Homeyer added. “S.533 is comprehensive legislation that would help alleviate a lot of these problems.”

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