Letter to the Editor: Federal fix needed if N.Y. can’t reform Scaffold Law

The Times Union published a letter to the editor from the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York’s executive director, Tom Stebbins:

As the paper of record in New York’s state capital, we were surprised to read the Times Union’s opposition to a federal fix to the Scaffold Law, “Scaffold Law N.Y.’s business,” Feb. 4. No newspaper in the state is likely more aware of the undue influence of the trial lawyers in New York politics. Gov. Andrew Cuomo himself called the trial lawyers, “the single most powerful political force in Albany” in response to a question about Scaffold Law reform in 2014.

At the time, it was assumed that Cuomo was referring to disgraced former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who was later convicted of corruption in a scandal involving a trial lawyer law firm. While on the payroll of that law firm, Silver bragged of stopping Scaffold Law reform despite the obvious conflict of interest between his employer and the needs of New Yorkers.

With trial lawyers’ influence in Albany, this is not the first time that advocates have been forced to rely on the federal government to fix a New York problem. Back in 2005, business and tourism advocates pushed a federal bill to fix a New York law which had held rental car companies vicariously liable for rental car accidents. The trial lawyers kept this insane law afloat in Albany for years, because they loved suing the deep pockets of Hertz and Avis. Those companies simply passed the costs onto consumers.

We are again faced with an inequity that benefits the trial lawyers at the expense of the rest of us. We applaud Congress for working to fix something that Albany could not.

Tom Stebbins


executive director, Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York

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