“A battle to repeal an obscure New York law protecting construction workers appears to be gaining momentum, with backers saying the 19th-century measure is typical of the reasons it’s so difficult and costly to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure.
Tom Stebbins, executive director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, cites a Cornell University study by Prof R. Richard Geddes and others that concluded that the law reduces worker safety. Stebbins argued that this may occur because, if companies can be held liable for an accident no matter what, they have little incentive to go all out on providing safeguards at the job site. Construction workers also have less incentive to follow safety measures themselves, he said.”
LRANY’s Adam Morey recently had a letter published in the New York Daily News in response to a piece opposing changes to the Scaffold Law.
“The Scaffold Law has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with enriching trial lawyers, no matter what Voicer Gary La Barbera says. A Cornell study peer-reviewed by the National Academies concluded that the law significantly increases the rate of construction site injuries. Despite La Barbera’s attempt to paint the opposition as shills for the insurance industry, the reform coalition includes advocates as diverse as the School Boards Association, Conference of Mayors and Habitat for Humanity.”
**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 24, 2017**
Contact: Adam Morey
Gov. Cuomo Signs Legislation to Relieve Farms of Burdensome Liability
Bill Aims to Lower Sky-high Insurance Premiums by Applying ‘Inherent Risk’ Principles to Agricultural Tourism
ALBANY, NY – Governor Andrew Cuomo today signed A559, legislation that has been a longtime priority for New York’s agricultural industry. The bill aims to control increasing insurance premiums by clarifying the responsibilities of both patrons and farmers when it comes to agricultural tourism activities.
The bill passed both houses of the state legislature earlier this year with a near unanimous vote.
Tom Stebbins, executive director, Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York said:
“As this is the season for apple picking, pumpkin picking, and soon cutting down your own Christmas tree, Governor Cuomo signed this important legislation at the right time and the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York could not be more thrilled.
“Farmers can now focus on providing family friendly and educational activities without fear of being sued out of existence. With this act, the governor has sent a strong message that he is willing to protect farmers, small business owners, and the economy from New York’s notoriously litigious environment. We hope he continues to support crucial liability reforms like this. We are especially thankful to Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, Senator Rob Ortt, and the bill’s thirty co-sponsors for their leadership in the legislature on this issue.”
The Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY) is a nonpartisan not-for-profit association of businesses, professionals, healthcare providers, membership organizations, taxpayers, and concerned citizens committed to changing New York’s legal system to help create jobs and energize our economy.
LRANY’s Tom Stebbins was quoted in a Forbes article focused on the recent case management order changes in the NYCAL:
“Tom Stebbins, executive director of the Albany-based Lawsuit Reform Alliance, said the brief is a “critical step” in restoring balance to NYCAL.
“The court has been dubbed a ‘judicial hellhole’ and the recent case management order only made things worse,” he told Legal Newsline.
“We hope the court will restore the longstanding deferral of punitive damages and adopt asbestos trust claim transparency to address inconsistent claims and suppression of trust-related exposure evidence by plaintiffs’ lawyers.””
Following the release of a report from Common Good on the detrimental effects of the Scaffold Law, the Legislative Gazette covered this and quoted LRANY’s Executive Director:
“New York’s 130-year old Scaffold Law has been a road-block to rebuilding New York’s infrastructure and economy for far too long,” said Tom Stebbins, executive director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York. “New York is out of step with the 49 other states and we cannot continue to watch billions of both public and private funds go to waste on sky-high liability costs.”
**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 17, 2017**
Contact: Adam Morey
Common Good Releases Paper on New York’s
“Obsolete, Inequitable” Scaffold Law
Law Could Add $300 Million to the Cost of the Gateway Rail Tunnel Project
“classic example of obsolete law, and is indicative of a problem with American law generally”
NEW YORK, NY – Common Good, a national nonpartisan legal and regulatory reform coalition, today released a paper explaining why New York’s Scaffold Law is in dire need of reform.
“For too long, New Yorkers have lived with the unintended consequences of New York’s Labor Law §240, a 19th-century statute commonly called the “Scaffold Law”: enormous legal settlements, prohibitive insurance rates, and, as a result, materially higher costs for infrastructure and building projects,” the report states.
“The Scaffold Law is a classic example of obsolete law, and is indicative of a problem with American law generally. Just like other obsolete laws, the Scaffold Law is now defended only by the special interests that have formed around them, including the plaintiff’s bar that benefit from the growth of legal cases and settlements under the law,” Common Good’s paper concludes.
Congressman John Faso (R-Kinderhook) last month introduced the “Infrastructure Expansion Act” that would apply a “comparative negligence” standard to New York construction projects that receive federal funding. The measure would save taxpayers’ money by applying the legal standard found in the rest of the country to projects in New York. Currently, New York judges apply “absolute liability” to lawsuits brought under the Scaffold Law, which drives up the cost of every construction project in the state.
A bill that would apply comparative negligence to both private and public construction work, regardless of funding source, was introduced by Senator Fred Akshar (R-Binghamton) and Assemblyman John McDonald (D-Cohoes) in the state legislature.
Tom Stebbins, executive director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York said, “New York’s 130-year old Scaffold Law has been a road-block to rebuilding New York’s infrastructure and economy for far too long. New York is out of step with the 49 other states and we cannot continue to watch billions of both public and private funds go to waste on sky-high liability costs.”
LRANY’s Tom Stebbins was quoted in The New York Times in an article focusing on the growing trend of ADA lawsuits for website accessibility – most recently against a string of colleges.
“The result of these conflicting rulings is a legal gray area ripe for, depending on your viewpoint, either significant civil rights advances or exploitation by lawyers looking to make a quick buck through settlements, said Tom Stebbins, executive director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York.
Absent clarity from the federal government, Mr. Stebbins said, some lawyers have filed identical lawsuits against multiple businesses or universities in the hopes of reaching a settlement with one or more of them. .
“’These are cut-and-paste lawsuits,” he said. “You just have these lawyers taking advantage of a good-intentioned law to make money.'”
‘A recent Times Union editorial makes three key errors about the Scaffold Law: 1) it characterizes reform as an “attack on worker safety,” 2) it claims that reform is about “fattening profits” and 3) it makes the unsubstantiated claim that “drunk workers or employees ignoring safety measures” are mere “hypotheticals.” Each of these assertions is incorrect.
First, the reform that advocates seek does not amend the safety provisions in the Scaffold Law at all. All it does is apply the same liability standard that is used in every other state and every other part of New York law. The reform would ensure that liability is proportional to fault. Data suggest that this reform would improve safety, not “attack” it.’
A piece written by LRANY’s Adam Morey was published in the Buffalo News this week. The opinion piece noted the financial drain of the antiquated Scaffold Law.
“If our elected representatives are truly serious about updating the state’s aging infrastructure, they will need to provide the proper funding – and commit to spending that money wisely. To do that, they must also modernize New York’s archaic construction liability statute, commonly known as the Scaffold Law.
Under the law, courts hold contractors and property owners, including cities and other publicly funded entities like the Thruway Authority, absolutely liable for claims filed for gravity-related construction injuries. This means that a jury cannot consider how the reckless behavior of the injured worker or other employees contributed to the accident.
In the words of former Court of Appeals Judge Robert Smith: ‘A defendant may be liable to a worker who may have been primarily at fault.'”
- Radio Interview: Focus on the State Capitol — Tom Stebbins Discusses Scaffold Law Reform Efforts with Fred DickerNovember 2, 2017 - 9:14 pm
- The Washington Post: Tear Down N.Y.’S ‘Scaffold Law’ To Rebuild InfrastructureOctober 26, 2017 - 4:56 pm
- New York Daily News: Building Up CostsOctober 26, 2017 - 3:55 pm