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Evidence of Trial Lawyer Corruption Comes to Light in South Carolina

On Sunday, February 11, 2018, the Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina reported new email evidence suggesting misconduct regarding a tort reform bill in 2011. The emails in question were uncovered by prosecutors and involve Rick Quinn, a former state representative who in Decemeber of 2017 plead guilty to State house corruption charges.   They also implicate the South Carolina Association for Justice, the state trial lawyers’ group, as the association sought political favors from Quinn and his political consultant father through hefty donations.

Despite these illicit donations, the association learned that then Senate president Glenn McConnell supported the bill, which would have capped punitive damage awards at $350,000.

In an April 2, 2011 email, the trial lawyers’ association president Mark Joye wrote, “if word gets out that McConnell turned on us in this bill, it will have a pretty chilling effect on us giving the amount of money that we have consciously been doing in the last three years.”

He went on to say that given the fact the Association’s political action committee was about to put $1 million into play, McConnell’s stance would result in “catching all sorts of hell from our members who have so far gone along with us on this paying republican favor only to have it backfire at the critical moment.”

Although Rick Quinn has rebuffed claims of shady involvement with his father’s firm, Joye’s emails provide clear evidence against Quinn’s assertions. Joye’s email was forwarded to both Rick Quinn and his father. The following day, Rick Quinn replied to the email with potential issues concerning the bill where McConnell could be swayed. Once the bill had passed the Senate, the damages cap had been raised to $500,000 in most cases, and $2 million in the most egregious cases.

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