Current through 2021 Act No. 91.
Section 15-78-20 - Legislative findings; declaration of public policy; extent of, and construction of, waiver of immunity(a) The General Assembly finds that while a private entrepreneur may be readily held liable for negligence of his employees within the chosen ambit of his activity, the area within which government has the power to act for the public good has been without limit and, therefore, government did not have the duty to do everything which might have been done. The General Assembly further finds that each governmental entity has financial limitations within which it must exercise authorized power and discretion in determining the extent and nature of its activities. Thus, while total immunity from liability on the part of the government is not desirable, see McCall v. Batson, neither should the government be subject to unlimited nor unqualified liability for its actions. The General Assembly recognizes the potential problems and hardships each governmental entity may face being subjected to unlimited and unqualified liability for its actions. Additionally, the General Assembly recognizes the impossibility of insuring for acts retrospectively. The General Assembly seeks an orderly transition to the recognition of individuals' rights against the tortious sovereign as defined herein. Consequently, it is declared to be the public policy of the State of South Carolina that the State, and its political subdivisions, are only liable for torts within the limitations of this chapter and in accordance with the principles established herein. It is further declared to be the public policy of the State of South Carolina that to insure an orderly transition from sovereign immunity to qualified and limited liability that the General Assembly intends to provide for liability on the part of the State and its political subdivisions only from July 1, 1986, forward in prospective fashion. No governmental entity which was not insured at the time of the injury for which compensation is sought is liable under this chapter and those which were insured are liable only to the extent provided herein. Liability for acts or omissions under this chapter is based upon the traditional tort concepts of duty and the reasonably prudent person's standard of care in the performance of that duty.(b) The General Assembly in this chapter intends to grant the State, its political subdivisions, and employees, while acting within the scope of official duty, immunity from liability and suit for any tort except as waived by this chapter. The General Assembly additionally intends to provide for liability on the part of the State, its political subdivisions, and employees, while acting within the scope of official duty, only to the extent provided herein. All other immunities applicable to a governmental entity, its employees, and agents are expressly preserved. The remedy provided by this chapter is the exclusive civil remedy available for any tort committed by a governmental entity, its employees, or its agents except as provided in Section 15-78-70(b).(c)(i) As to those causes of action that arise or accrue prior to the effective date of this act, the General Assembly reinstates sovereign immunity on the part of the State, its political subdivisions and employees, while acting within the scope of official duty provided that sovereign immunity will not bar recovery in any cause of action arising or accruing on or before the effective date of this act if the defendant maintained liability insurance coverage.(ii) In such cases involving governmental health care facilities, as defined in Section 15-78-30(j), recovery shall not exceed the limits of the liability insurance coverage up to a maximum recovery of five hundred thousand dollars.(iii) In all other such cases recovery shall not exceed the limits of the liability insurance coverage.(d) Nothing in this chapter affects liability based on contract nor does it affect the power of the State or its political subdivisions to contract.(e) Nothing in this chapter is construed as a waiver of the state's or political subdivision's immunity from suit in federal court under the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution of the United States nor as consent to be sued in any state court beyond the boundaries of the State of South Carolina.(f) The provisions of this chapter establishing limitations on and exemptions to the liability of the State, its political subdivisions, and employees, while acting within the scope of official duty, must be liberally construed in favor of limiting the liability of the State.(g) The General Assembly recognizes the competing interests of either providing physicians and dentists qualified immunity under the provisions of the South Carolina Tort Claims Act or continuing unqualified liability for medical malpractice actions brought against governmentally employed physicians or dentists. While patients deserve accountable and competent health care, regardless of the public or private character of the provider, governmental entities, in order to attract qualified physicians and dentists, must be able to offer an affordable compensation and employment package, including liability insurance. The General Assembly, in amending this chapter, intends to provide an orderly transition from noninclusion to inclusion of physicians and dentists under the provisions of this chapter. Additionally, the liability limits, and hence mandated insurance coverage, of governmental entities for acts of physicians or dentists, acting within the scope of their profession, are set somewhat higher than those provided for other types of governmental liability. These higher limits and mandated coverages are recognition by the General Assembly of significantly higher damages in cases of medical malpractice. To this end, inclusion of physicians and dentists within this chapter has been delayed until January 1, 1989, when an affordable program of group liability insurance will be instituted.1988 Act No. 352, Section 2; 1987 Act No. 7, Section 1; 1986 Act No. 463, Section 1.