Today’s Press & Sun Bulletin features an op-ed on why The Scaffold Law needs to be repealed. Tom Meade, the executive director of the Professional Abatement Contractors of New York, notes that, as the New York Court of Appeals stated, the Scaffold Law “imposes liability even on contractors and owners who had nothing to do with the plaintiff’s accident.” He also notes that changing the law to a comparative negligence standard, from the current absolute liability standard, would ensure that “parties are held responsible for their share of the liability,” which is the “standard in every other state and … the standard in most every other aspect of our civil justice system.”
State’s Highest Court on the Scaffold Law: “One of the Most Frequent Sources of Litigation in New York Courts”
Adam Sichko of The Business Review has a pretty good overview of the reasons why the business community is urging reform of New York’s Scaffold Law:
Employees are suing business owners across New York for millions of dollars as a result of work-site accidents that may be at least partly the fault of the workers themselves.
Here’s the kicker: State law holds contractors and business owners at fault for injuries in those incidents—regardless whether the worker was committing a crime or drunk on the job or decided not to wear any safety gear.
That’s the situation business lobbies are setting out to rectify at a lobbying event this morning in the state Capitol.
Business groups believe they are closer than ever to enacting business-friendly changes in the state’s “scaffold law,” which governs “gravity-related” workplace injuries (think falling off a ladder or a roof). And for the first time, state authorities are backing their push—including the MTA, or Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the largest transit network on the continent.
Business lobbies have shifted tactics, no longer calling for deleting the law entirely (a nod to New York’s mantle as the most unionized state in the nation).
Instead, they’re supporting a bipartisan bill that would keep the law on the books but hold workers to some level of liability and responsibility under a half-dozen possible situations, including the scenarios I mentioned earlier.
The business community’s beef with the scaffold law is neatly summed up in a 2012 ruling from the state’s highest court.
Judges called the scaffold law “one of the most frequent sources of litigation in the New York courts.”
Then the judges added this: “As we have long held, it imposes liability even on contractors and owners who had nothing to do with the plaintiff’s accident; and where a violation of the statute has caused injury, any fault by the plaintiff contributing to that injury is irrelevant.”