Several bills were introduced in this South Carolina legislative session, that would put limits on lawsuits. Today, TheState.com reported that discussion on one of these bills was delayed. This website is from the largest paper in the state of South Carolina. Here's what I read into the newspaper account as well as the legislation at hand.
The South Carolina Judiciary panel canceled a hearing on a bill (SB 350) that seeks to broaden the medical malpractice limits that were put into place in 2005. At the time, the basis for such caps and limitations related to the desire of encouraging reforms in medicine. Now, these same tort reformers want to extend these same limits to all civil actions. That's the boring legalese. Let's get to the meat of what it means.
Pain and suffering awards would be limited to 1 million. Punishment (Punitive) damages against large employers could be no more than three times the actual amount of the actual damage verdict or $250,000, whichever is greater.
It's easy to see why the organization that calls itself the South Carolina Civil Justice Coalition, would be pushing for this legislation. They claim an agenda to oppose legislation that increases litigation and costs to the business community and oppose legislation that is harmful to the legal climate.
What that means is that there has to be limits as to how much a business should pay for harming someone, because paying money is bad for business. I even posted the website for this organization because I think that the more light that is shined on them, the more that sensibility will prevail regarding their actions against individuals.
This kind of legislation gets me keyed up. They claim that their organization is trying to make a difference in the climate of economic development deals within the state. I see it as putting profits over safety and knowing that, as a business, my exposure is limited.
If you tell Bill Gates or Warren Buffett that they will only have to pay one dollar, for every person they kill in South Carolina, you know that such legislation won't impact their conduct. That's because as indivduals, they know right and wrong and don't need a financial limitation for their wrongs.
Businesses and Publicly traded companies are tasked with one purpose: To turn a profit. They owe that to their shareholders. This legislation is basically saying, "Come to South Carolina because you won't have to fully pay for your harms".
One final note. If you click on the original article, you can scroll down to read the comments. One is supportive of the malpractice caps because "Doctors aren't perfect but they are more qualified than you and I to treat the sick people". How can you argue with that?
Another comment indicates that for the jury system to work it "needs to be made up of professionals". Another indicates that such legislation should be considered because "the jury system is broken". One poster wisely asks the question of "why hasn't my health insurance premiums gone down since this 2005 law?" I guess we need to ask that question to the Civil Justice Coalition. Of course, there is nothing in their website about helping the individual.