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The Real Effect of "Tort Reform" on Injury Victims

Train Victims Call For State To Change Liability Law

SC Could Use Only $600,000 To ReImburse 27 Victims

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Some victims of a miniature train wreck in Spartanburg are asking lawmakers to raise the state's liability limit. "If the $600,000 cap remains in place, then our families affected, not just from our church, but all the families affected by the train accident could see some pretty substantial medical bills," said Nathan Ellis, a member of Corinth Baptist Church, which had 15 members on the train. Under South Carolina law, government agencies and municipalities, including Spartanburg County, can only be held liable for up to $600,000 in any accident. On March 19, 27 people were injured and 6-year-old Benji Easler were killed when a miniature train owned and operated by the Spartanburg County Parks Commission ran off the tracks. Officals for the South Carolina Department of Labor Licensing and Registration said an employee falsified an inspection report the week of the accident. State officials are still investigating the crash, and neither LLR nor Spartanburg County has claimed liability. One family has filed a suit against the state for damages. Ellis said many families' insurance companies plan to hold the state liable for medical costs. "When the state's cap is met at $600,000 there'll be no money left to reimburse the insurance companies, and the insurance companies are going to deny our claims, is what we've been told," Ellis said. "With almost 30 victims involved in the train accident, $600,000 just isn't going to go very far," he said. Ellis said members of Corinth Baptist Church have reached out to lawmakers for help. Rep. Dennis Moss, R-Gaffney, said he would meet with other legislators to see if something could be done to help the victims. Moss told News 4 that the reason for the cap is to protect taxpayers from frivolous lawsuits, but that it was not designed to deal with a situation involving 27 victims. Ellis said Corinth Baptist has also begun setting up a fund to help victims of the crash.

"We're trusting the Lord, that he's going to provide," he said. "Part of the way the Lord provides, though, is for us to act responsibly."

John Eby, WYFF News 4 Reporter

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