Copyright (c) 2007 University of South Carolina
South Carolina Law Review
TORT LAW: LIMITED JOINT AND SEVERAL LIABILITY UNDER SECTION 15-38-15: APPLICATION OF THE RULE AND THE SPECIAL PROBLEM POSED BY NONPARTY FAULT
58 S.C. L. Rev. 627
Joshua D. Shaw
In March 2005, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford signed into law a bill that addresses several issues relating to the civil justice system's treatment of tort claims. 1 Joint and several liability is one important issue the bill addresses. 2 Section 15-38-15 of the South Carolina Code does not abolish joint and several liability but does limit the instances when it applies. 3 Under the new rule, the jury allocates fault between the parties, and a defendant can be held jointly and severally liable only if he is fifty percent or more at fault for the plaintiff's injuries. 4 This revision of joint and several liability law reflects an evolving national approach to tort liability and brought South Carolina in line with the trend toward abolishing or limiting joint and several liability. 5 Nevertheless, how the courts should apply South Carolina's new joint and several liability provision is ambiguous, especially regarding the role nonparties play in fault allocation.
Part II briefly reviews joint and several liability prior to reform, focusing on the impact of comparative negligence on the doctrine of joint and several liability. This part suggests that limiting joint and several liability is consistent with the equitable principles underlying comparative negligence. Part III describes the fault allocation scheme of section 15-38-15, demonstrates the application of the new rule using a hypothetical scenario, and identifies the special problem posed by nonparty fault. This part argues that the statute is ambiguous regarding the ...
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