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Scaffold Law Reform Sponsorship Gains Media Attention

On Tuesday Senator Gallivan announced his sponsorship of a bill to reform New York’s antiquated ‘Scaffold Law.’  This announcement has echoed with attention from the media, despite the unfortunate timing of the budget hype.  The announcement was heralded by business groups, taxpayer groups, and civil justice advocates as an important step forward, and has garnered statewide attention from the media. LRANY applauds Senator Gallivan for his strong commitment to restoring equity to the civil justice system, promoting economic development, and stimulating job creation. Setting an example that many in Washington could learn from, Senator Gallivan is working closely with the bill’s sponsor in the Assembly, Assemblyman Joseph Morelle (D, Irondequoit), to put the interests of New Yorkers ahead of partisan politics.

LRANY thanks and applauds the Senator for making this commitment to help move New York in the right direction by bringing common sense back to our civil justice system.

The press conference held on Tuesday can be seen here in a piece covered by the Democrat and Chronicle and Politics on the Hudson.  The information was also blogged by the TU Capitol Confidential and BCNYS Capital Business Blog.

Mike Elmendorf, President & CEO of ACGNYS discussed Scaffold Law Reform on The Capital Press Room radio show (Minutes 38:16-41:45) and made a television appearance with Senator Gallivan on Capital Tonight.

Just today, The Buffalo News ran an article covering the sponsorship in which LRANY Executive Director was quoted: “We in New York spend four, five and even 10 times more for our public infrastructure projects than most other states.”

There was even a post by NY Construction Accident Attorneys, arguing –unsurprisingly- against reform to the law.

 

To learn more about the ‘Scaffold Law’ and how you can get involved, visit www.ScaffoldLaw.org


Senator Gallivan Sponsors Legislation to Reform the “Scaffold Law”

New York State is routinely hailed as one of the most adverse environments in the nation for creating jobs, retaining jobs, or attracting jobs. To change that, New York needs to examine its own regulations and red tape that deter private sector growth and investment – beginning with the state’s burdensome Scaffold Law,” said Senator Patrick M. Gallivan (R-Elma).

The Senator joined with groups from across the state today to announce his sponsorship of a bill, S.6816, to reform New York’s antiquated and costly Scaffold Law.  The law, which exists only in New York, holds property owners and contractors fully liable for workplace accidents, regardless of fault.  The bill, which enjoys bipartisan support, seeks to address this issue.

Read the Full Press Release

 

For more information about the Scaffold Law, visit www.ScaffoldLaw.org

 

LRANY Applauds Senate for Passing Legislation to Curb “Ambulance Chasing”

By: Scott Hobson

The New York State Senate has passed legislation, sponsored by Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R, Rockville Centre), which increases penalties for hiring or acting as a “runner” to procure clients, patients, or customers. A runner is defined as a person hired by a professional, typically a lawyer or doctor, to solicit services.

Typically, runners approach injured victims immediately following an accident and attempt to persuade them to take legal action or seek medical services. In New York, soliciting a client or patient within 30 days of an accident – “ambulance chasing” – is illegal. Attorneys who violate this law may be subject to censure or suspension. However, the practice of using runners remains far too common, especially in New York City. This legislation will reduce the use of runners by imposing serious criminal penalties for violations.

The practice of using runners, strongly condemned by the State Bar Association and professional organizations across the state, has impacts beyond the clear ethical issues. Most legal or medical fraud schemes require a large volume of clients that are recruited using runners. This raises the cost of medical insurance, which impacts every New Yorker.

LRANY applauds the Senate for taking leadership on this important issue, and urges the Assembly to follow suit.

 

High Price for Popcorn, Higher Price for Taxpayers

By: Mike Seinberg

A Michigan man is fed up with the price of popcorn at the movie theater. Who isn’t? Everyone knows that food at the theater is overpriced and they do it because you’re a captive audience. But the gentleman in question took it to the proverbial next level when his local theater stopped allowing people to bring in their own food, which he’d been doing. His solution? A class action lawsuit to end what he calls price gouging.

Most people would chalk this up as just another frivolous lawsuit, but here in NY, it hits much too close to home in the form of some proposed legislation by Assemblyman Dinowitz (D, Bronx). The proposed law would suddenly take powers that until now, were in the hands of the Attorney General and drop them in the hot little hands of every hungry trial lawyer in the state.

The law, which would require a minimum recovery of $1000 per plaintiff and allow for an additional recovery of $5,000 per plaintiff in cases of willful violation of the law.  Moreover, it doesn’t even clearly define price gouging and relies on the court to define the violation on a case-by-case basis. The clear potential for abuse of such a law is the very reason why it should not be enacted. The next thing you know we’ll see lawsuits against every convenience store over the high price of Doritos.

If this legislation were to pass, a lawsuit could be brought against a gas station inadvertently overcharging by $0.03 per gallon of gas.  If they had 1000 customers who bought ten gallons of gas, they would have inadvertently overcharged their customers by $300. With this new law in place they could face $1,000,000.00 in potential lawsuits.  If this power, designed for the Attorney General got into the hands of private attorneys, we would see a flood of lawsuits like these hurting the business climate in our state.

It would be wise for all those concerned to dismiss this case in Michigan and vote down this proposal in NY. If both go forward, prices will only keep rising to cover the cost of lawsuits. Wait, might that be construed as further price gouging?

Just yesterday, this legislation passed the Assembly and was delivered to the Senate.  Contact your elected official here and urge them to vote against this bill!

Legislative Alert – Trial Lawyer-Backed Legislation Dropped from Committee Agenda

Assembly Bill 673, sponsored by personal injury lawyer Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D, Queens) was removed from the Codes Committee agenda on March 1st, following an aggressive lobbying effort by LRANY and representatives of the medical and business communities.

The legislation seeks to change the civil practice law and rules to rename Independent Medical Examinations (IME) “Adversarial Medical Examinations.” The bill would also require that a plaintiff who receives an IME be informed of their right to have their lawyer and videographer present to record the examination.

The proposed legislation would effectively discourage physicians from conducting IME’s, frustrating a defendant’s ability to assess the validity of a lawsuit against them.

LRANY continues to actively oppose this legislation.

Write to your elected officials to stop this bill!

 

Legislative Alert:Trial Lawyer Lobby Seeks to Overturn Highest Court and Ban Interviews of Later Treating Physicians

Consider for a moment that you are a doctor who has been accused of medical malpractice (and since many members of the medical community read the LRANY blog, maybe you are).  The patient who is accusing you of malpractice was seen by another nearby doctor after the alleged incident, and you know that later-treating doctor said the patient was fine, no sign of the alleged injury.  Well, the later treating doctor would be a good guy to talk to about the malpractice allegation, right?

Absolutely, but a new law proposed in the New York legislature seeks to say, “Tough luck.  Informal interviews are not allowed.” The legislation seeks to overturn a 2007 ruling by New York’s highest court, which ruled that such interviews, while they cannot be compelled, are allowed, just as they are in nearly every other part of our justice system.  But the Trial Bar wants to limit that right and limit the ability of medical defendants to gather information.

The issue is called “Ex Parte Interview” and it may sounds like an esoteric, minor change to the law, but that is precisely why it is dangerous.  It passed the New York Assembly last year and is on the agenda in the Senate Judiciary Committee right now.  Both of the primary sponsors are personal injury lawyers.

This small change is estimated to increase malpractice coverage costs by 5% or $80m a year at a time when the state is desperately looking to reduce such costs.  It’s seemingly innocuous, which is why the Trial bar has had success in the past, but we need people like you to let their legislators know that they oppose limiting doctor’s right to gather information and oppose further raising our state’s out of control medical costs.

Ohio House Passes Asbestos Claims Transparency Legislation

By: Scott Hobson

The Ohio House has passed HB 380 which would require plaintiffs in asbestos litigation to disclose any additional claims they have pending against asbestos trusts. Said Ohio state representative Lou Blessing, “openness in legal proceedings is good and helps ensure that justice is fairly administered.”

We couldn’t agree more.  A recent report by the Government Accountability Office highlighted the secretive nature of asbestos trusts. The report studied 52 of the 60 asbestos trusts in existence and found that they have paid out approximately 3.3 million claims totaling $17.5 billion. Yet amazingly, only one trust publically disclosed the how much and to whom payments were made.

Equally troubling is the connection between asbestos law firms and the trusts they seek recovery from. A 2010 report by the RAND Institute for Civil Justice uncovered several such connections that should raise suspicion – demonstrating that the plaintiffs’ law firms effectively control the trusts through their management of the Trust Advisory Committees. For example, the law firm Weitz and Luxenberg has influence over 42% of the asbestos trusts reviewed in the study, serving as Trust Advisory Committee members.

Ohio’s legislation is a model of transparency and fairness. New York leaders should take note and advance similar measures to prevent unfair duplicative recoveries and shed light on firms which routinely abuse the system. Otherwise, financial incentives will continue to invite rampant abuse of the system and will hasten the depletion of funds intended for the truly sick.

Court of Appeals was Right to Ban Private Martin Act Suits

A recent article in the New York Daily News illuminates the potential issues raised by giving the broad powers of the Martin Act to private attorneys, as well as the potential for a new wave of private non-fraud securities suits. From the article:

“Empowering plaintiffs to wield that extraordinarily potent law would have been a bonanza for trial lawyers and plaintiffs — and a disaster for the rest of New York’s economy.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Read the full article here:

Proposed Legislation Would Rein in Liability for Equine Businesses

An article in The Buffalo News on Monday highlighted the “Equine Activity Safety Code Act”, proposed  by Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer, which would limit the liability for horse facility operators.  Currently in New York, horseback riding is governed by the general liability rule, which encourages lawsuits for injuries that were beyond the operators’ control.  This legislation would make horseback riding a sport in which “inherent risk” is acknowledged by those who participate in the sport.  Our state already has such an exception for alpine skiing; because skiing is an inherently risky – and voluntary activity, operators are typically not liable for skiers’’ injuries.  Senator Ranzenhofer said as many as 30 states are considering or have passed such riding-risk laws.

This proposed legislation would give a boost to equine businesses, which face high insurance rates and the threat of costly lawsuits due to open-ended liability.  Importantly, the law would not allow negligent operators to escape responsibility. “This does not eliminate a person’s ability to sue,” Ranzenhofer said. “Someone can still bring an action for damages against the owner of a stable — if the person was acting recklessly or hid something.”

Horses, no matter how well trained, can nonetheless be unpredictable and horse riding is widely known to be an inherently risky activity. LRANY strongly supports this legislation to implement rational liability limits for operators of horse facilities, a positive step toward reviving our economy and bringing common sense back to New York.

Newest Assembly Member: New York Needs Scaffold Law Reform

By: Scott Hobson – Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York

We would like to join the many others in congratulating Ray Walter on becoming the new Assembly Member for Amherst.  Most significantly, we would like to applaud our state’s newest legislator on his commitment to reforming Labor Law 240/241, also known as the “Scaffold Law”.

His constituents should be familiar with the “only in New York” Scaffold Law, as they are currently on the hook for $13.6m because of this antiquated and outdated provision.

In 2006, a construction firm was asked by the Town of Amherst to do an estimate on a roofing job at a town-owned building.  During that estimate, three men improperly used the top half of a ladder, one without the safety grips on the bottom, to scale the building.  The men were aware of the ladder’s deficiency, so they asked another worker to secure the bottom while they climbed.  Soon after, that worker decided to climb the ladder himself, which collapsed, causing serious injuries.

The injured worker sued the Town of Amherst under the Scaffold Law, which holds an employer or property owner automatically fully liable for any elevation related work injury, whether or not they had direct control over the work site. Defendants in Scaffold Law suits never get the chance to defend themselves at trial and the injured worker is still entitled to worker’s compensation payments. There was little the town could do, and may ultimately have to pay the judgment of $23.4 million. With only $10 million in insurance coverage, the taxpayers of Amherst are on the hook for $13.4 million.

The people of Amherst could have used that money to pay for emergency services, hire teachers, repair their streets, or lower taxes. It is for exactly that reason that the newly formed “Let New York Work” coalition is advocating for Scaffold Law reform as part of their mandate relief package.

Ray Walter has already recognized the need to reform this outdated law. According Walter in a recent article in the Legislative Gazette,

“The main issue in western New York and across New York state is jobs. We need to do what we can to help create jobs here in my district. One of the ways that we propose to do that is … we need to address the regulatory burden that we place on our small businesses,” he said, referring to what he says are onerous costs imposed on local businesses such as those associated with Workers Compensation laws and measures such as the Scaffold Law, which holds employers fully liable for any elevation-related injuries sustained by workers, regardless of fault. The Scaffold Law in New York is the only law of its kind remaining in the United States.

As the 2012 Legislative session approaches, Ray Walter and his 211 fellow legislators will have the chance to finally make a difference. Reforming the Scaffold Law, which has broad bipartisan support, would not take away anyone’s right to recover for their injuries, it would simply give an employer or property owner the chance to defend themselves in court. This reform could create thousands of new construction jobs, improve workplace safety, help struggling small businesses, and take the pressure off the budgets of towns and cities statewide.