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Honorable Mark Sanford

Representing the 1st District of South Carolina

Vote Notes: H.R. 720, The Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act

Mar 10, 2017
Blog Post

Under the category of “putting your money where your mouth is,” this morning I voted on a bill that would put some more responsibility into the legal process for those who file lawsuits. The Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2017 would allow a judge to order plaintiffs and their attorneys to compensate defendants if the case can’t be backed up by facts in court. If you’re interested in a fuller discussion about the problems with frivolous lawsuits, take a look at the post below from when this same bill passed the House in 2015:

Last night, I voted in favor of the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act, which was passed by a vote of 241 to 185. This bill would make compensation mandatory for victims of frivolous lawsuits – meaning the claim has no basis in law or fact – and requires sanctions against the person making a frivolous claim as well as their lawyer. Essentially, this means that the House is trying to bring some accountability into the legal process.

Make no mistake, like so many good ideas this bill won’t pass in the Senate, and even if it somehow did, it certainly wouldn’t pass a presidential veto. But in life you can do only as much as you can do and this is one of those votes that allow us to signal what we believe to be true north and where we think we should be headed…regardless of what might take place in the Senate and White House.

As Governor, we had success on this front. For years, parts of South Carolina were ranked as a “judicial hellholes,” and by signing a tort reform bill that restricted and capped frivolous lawsuits, South Carolina moved toward a fairer legal climate, which I think is one of the cornerstones to economic growth.

The problem at the federal stems from a 1993 Supreme Court rule change that allows lawyers to file abusive frivolous lawsuits and then avoid any penalties by withdrawing them at a later date. This system clogs up our courts and forces innocent businesses and people who are the targets of these warrantless suits to bear a host of consequent costs. I voted for this bill to restore the procedures that were in place prior to 1993 when a judge determined a lawsuit had no merit.

According to Congressman Lamar Smith of TX, the bill’s sponsor, “Lawsuit abuse is common in America because the lawyers who bring these frivolous cases have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Lawyers can file meritless lawsuits, and defendants are faced with the choice of years of litigation, high court costs and attorneys’ fees or a settlement out of court. This is legalized extortion. The Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act restores accountability to our legal system by imposing mandatory sanctions on attorneys who file worthless lawsuits.”

I think this is certainly a thought worth pondering as we increasingly compete with places like China and India for jobs, capital, and way of life.