Trespasser Responsibility Act Passed in South Carolina
On Wednesday, June 3, 2015, SC lawmakers passed House Bill H.3266, the Trespasser Responsibility Act bill, by a 41-1 vote in the Senate and a 94-0 concurrence vote in the House. Governor Haley has signed the bill into law. The bill, now Act No.65, codifies the common law and its limitations on liability by land possessors and provides exceptions; thereby, protecting landowners from frivolous lawsuits.
Under this act and current common law, a possessor of land owes no duty to a trespasser, except to refrain from causing a willful or wanton injury. This new legislative development is similar to statutes 20 states, including our neighboring states Georgia and North Carolina, already have in place. South Carolina landowners will be afforded the same rights as those in these other states and prevent the adoption of broader exceptions, including the shifting of liability for injuries incurred by trespassers from the trespassers themselves to landowners. This common sense legislation will create consistency and fairness in the justice system in cases regarding landowner liability.
Cam Crawford, president of the South Carolina Forestry Association, testified in support of the act at the House Wildlife Subcommittee Meeting. “The SC Forestry Association has always supported the common law trespassing standard that landowners owe no duty of care to trespassers except in very narrow circumstances. The passage of this act was a top priority for the South Carolina Forestry Association and we are pleased that this act provides protection for landowners against costly lawsuits by those trespassing on their property.”
Earl Hunter, Executive Director of the Civil Justice Coalition, underscored the Trespasser Responsibility Act as “an important piece of legislation that will protect South Carolina landowners from frivolous lawsuits, while helping to maintain balance in the South Carolina civil justice system. This legislation ensures reasonable levels of liability for South Carolina landowners and businesses. We appreciate the General Assembly’s and Governor Haley’s support of this bill and thank Governor Haley for signing this legislation into law.”
The passage of H.3266 received bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate and allows South Carolinian land owners to experience better and more predictable protection from frivolous lawsuits. The bill is part of a package of court transparency and liability reform legislation put forth by the South Carolina Coalition for Lawsuit Reform, a business and industry group, during this legislative session.