January 1, 2012 saw the coming of more tort reform for South Carolina. Governor Nikki Haley boasted in her State of the State Address on January 18, 2012 that “[t]he next step in tort reform is a loser pay system so that there is a real cost to suits that waste the time and money of our businesses and our courts and that our companies understand that South Carolina won’t stand for trial lawyers playing games with their bottom line.” A new “loser pay” system is redundant because there is already the South Carolina Frivolous Proceedings Sanction Act which already allows judges to punish plaintiffs who file frivolous lawsuits by making them pay for the defendants costs and attorney’s fees. A “loser pays” system will also discourage patients from filing lawsuits that they should rightfully file to recover deserved damages.
This new tort reform is infringing on a patient’s right to recover the appropriate amount of damages in the case of unfortunate medical malpractice. There are now caps on what you may recover. Section 15-32-220 of the South Carolina Code explains these caps. There is a cap of $350,000 for noneconomic damages no matter how many separate causes of action on which the claim is based. This can be disregarded “if a jury or court determines that the defendant was grossly negligent, willful, wanton, or reckless, or if the defendant has engaged in fraud or misrepresentation related to the claim, or if the defendant altered or destroyed medical records with the purpose of avoiding a claim or liability to the claimant.” There is no cap for economic damages or for punitive damages if punitive damages apply.
Section 15-32-230 of the South Carolina Code discusses emergency medical and obstetrical care. No physician can be held liable if the care rendered was “in a genuine emergency situation involving an immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury to patient receiving care in an emergency department or in an obstetrical or surgical suite.” The physician can be held liable if it is proven that he or she was grossly negligent. Also, in an obstetrical emergency a doctor cannot be held liable if there was no prior patient/doctor relationship or if the patient had not received any prenatal care, unless the doctor was grossly negligent.
If you or a loved one are in need of a medical malpractice lawyer please contact The Kerr Law Firm at 843-785-3330. You may also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be honored to give you a free consultation on your case.