Two individuals on the same motorcycle were seriously injured in an auto accident when a traffic light malfunctioned in Inman. The at-fault party had minimal limits of insurance ($50,000), and the couple sued both the Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Safety for failure to prevent the accident. They alleged that DOT did not have a preventive maintenance program in place to routinely change the light bulbs in the traffic lights, and alleged DPS had not sent an officer to direct traffic at the light one hour and 27 minutes after a confirmed citizen's call was made to DPS informing them of the malfunction. The original award for the injured couple was $1,875,000, which was reduced to the statutory maximum of $600,000 by the lower courts set forth in S.C. Code Ann. "15-78-120
. In this decision, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the state tort caps but redefined an "occurrence" so as to provide additional relief to the plaintiffs.
The Supreme Court reaffirmed the constitutionality of the tort caps and then redefined the term "occurrence," raising the tort caps based on the number of negligent parties involved. The Supreme Court stated, "Under these facts, there were two separate entities which committed two separate and independent acts of negligence, and we do not believe the General Assembly's intent was to limit recovery in such situations based on there being only one occurrence. Accordingly, we hold each Respondent's act of negligence was a separate occurrence entitling the Boiters to a combined verdict of 1.2 million dollars, and we reverse the circuit court."