Rick Karlin of the Albany Times Union published a piece today highlighting the preliminary findings of a study by the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy which breaks down the annual cost that municipalities bear as a result of lawsuits. The study discovered that approximately one billion taxpayer dollars are spent annually on legal defense, judgments, and settlements for lawsuits. Municipalities are often brought into a lawsuit even if there is little or no negligence on their part, simply because an incident happened on public property.
“So far, researchers have learned that counties spend more on lawsuits than other municipalities such as towns or cities.
Any number of disputes or accidents can spark a lawsuit. Motorists have sued municipalities claiming that the roads were poorly plowed in winter, leading to accidents.”
Karlin noted the infamous ‘Scaffold Law‘ and its potentially devastating effect on localities; any public construction project can become a costly nightmare for a municipality if a worker is injured, even if the worker was largely responsible for their injuries.
“In one western New York case, a construction worker sued the Town of Amherst after he fell off a ladder while inspecting a public building. The suit forced the town to borrow to cover the costs.
That’s an example of what reformers term the Scaffold Law, which says a property owner is responsible for injuries on a property regardless of who is at fault.”