At ILR’s 12th Annual Legal Reform Summit, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, ILR’s 2011 State Leadership Award winner, discussed the importance of tort reform to attract companies and create the conditions for job growth in her state. She stressed that a big part of South Carolina’s appeal to U.S. businesses looking to locate there is a low cost of business, due, in part, to legal reform.
In 2011, Governor Haley signed the “South Carolina Fairness in Civil Justice Act,” a major step in reforming South Carolina’s legal standards and improving the business climate. Passing this important legal reform was one of her first priorities as governor, she said, and she made it clear to the legislature that they had a choice. “You have to pick a side,” Haley said. “Either you’re about jobs and the economy or you’re about the trial lawyers. You can’t be for both.”
The South Carolina Fairness in Civil Justice Act caps most punitive damage awards at $500,000 or three times actual costs, whichever is greater, with a special exception to raise the award in extraordinary circumstances. She said caps on punitive damages are necessary because of the large number of frivolous lawsuits. “I don’t think we’d be having this conversation about caps if we hadn’t seen all the abuses of the system,” she said. She added that in addition to balance, it was important to bring as much transparency to the plaintiffs’ bar’s activities as possible.
Haley said to be serious about tort reform, state legislatures should address it every year, and constituents should hold lawmakers and their governors accountable. She promised that she would continue to pursue legal reform in South Carolina.
“We’re thrilled to honor Governor Haley with our State Leadership Award,” said Lisa Rickard, President of ILR. “Her unwavering commitment to passing important legal reform legislation in South Carolina will make her state more competitive in recruiting new businesses while offering certainty and stability to current ones.”