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Can’t Make it to the Scaffold Law Reform Day at the Capitol?

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You Can Still Contact Elected Officials With Our Virtual Lobby Day!

If you are unable to make it to the Scaffold Law Reform Day at the Capitol, don’t worry! 

We are providing you multiple virtual vehicles to contact your elected officials and still make your voice heard!

Twitter: 

Hashtag: #SLRLobbyDay2015

A list of Twitter Handles for NYS Legislators can be found here: http://bit.ly/1npRC5K

Suggested Tweet: @(Your NYS Legislator here) It is past time for change! Reform the antiquated #ScaffoldLaw – #JobsSafetyJustice #SLRLobbyDay2015

votervoiceVoterVoice:

Send a letter directly to your elected officials with this electronic message service.

Follow this link:  http://bit.ly/1vuGeQj 

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Please contact us with any questions or concerns. 

Thank you for staying involved. With your support, we can make reform a reality.

Statement from Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York Executive Director Tom Stebbins on Mayor de Blasio’s Recognition of Frivolous Lawsuits’ Impact on NYC

January 30, 2015

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Statement from Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York Executive Director Tom Stebbins on Mayor de Blasio’s Recognition of Frivolous Lawsuits’ Impact on NYC

“We applaud Mayor de Blasio’s recognition that frivolous lawsuits are major drain on the city coffers. As comptroller Stringer recently reported, New York City spends more on lawsuits than on parks, libraries and aging combined, to say nothing of frivolous lawsuits’ impact to the private sector.

We can fix this. We need to reform the rule of “joint and several” liability (where a party 1% at fault can be held 100% liable) to a more equitable “fair share” system, where liability is proportional to fault.

We also call on the mayor to support reform of the archaic and ineffective “Scaffold Law,” which holds contractors and property owners (including the City) fully liable in lawsuits for gravity-related construction injuries regardless of any contributing fault of a worker. Disaster relief organizations like Habitat for Humanity have identified the Scaffold Law as a major impediment to rebuilding efforts in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Affordable housing advocates have also called for reform of the Scaffold Law. The School Construction Authority has noted that they paid an additional $215m in insurance costs due to the Scaffold Law in 2014 alone, enough to build several new schools. Meanwhile, our kids go to school in trailers.

We need stop spending taxpayer dollars on frivolous lawsuits, and start spending them on the things that really matter to New Yorkers.”

-Tom Stebbins, Executive Director, Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York

Contact: Phoebe Stonbely | PStonbely@lrany.org | 518.512.5265

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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.

See Full PDF Statement

Statement from Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York Executive Director Tom Stebbins Regarding the Imminent Departure of Sheldon Silver

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January 28, 2015

Statement from Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York Executive Director Tom Stebbins Regarding the Imminent Departure of Sheldon Silver

“News that Sheldon Silver will soon be replaced as Speaker of the Assembly marks the beginning of a new era in which New Yorkers can finally hope see to justice, fairness, and common sense return to our legal system.  For over a decade, Sheldon Silver served on the payroll of a personal injury law firm, and for over a decade New Yorkers suffered under the influence of the trial lawyer special interests.

After over 20 years of Silver’s tenure, we are left with a state ravaged by lawsuits and litigation. Our doctors and hospitals pay the highest liability insurance rates in the country, by a wide margin. Our contractors are unable to even find insurance, and when they do, rates are several times higher than those of their competitors in other states. Companies in the #1 ‘Judicial Hellhole’ that is the NYC Asbestos Litigation court face judgments that are 250% higher than the national average. Under Silver’s watch, the lawsuit industry has thrived while businesses have fled or crumbled under the burden of our imbalanced legal system.

We are all paying for Mr. Silver’s actions. Taxpayers are on the hook for well over a billion dollars a year in lawsuits and litigation. New York City spends more on lawsuits than on parks, libraries and aging combined. In just one year, the NYC School Construction Authority paid over $215m – the equivalent of 2-3 brand new schools – in additional insurance due to the outrageous Scaffold Law that Mr. Silver held in place for years while on the payroll of the trial lawyers who profit from it. Meanwhile, our kids go to school in trailers.

Today is a new day in Albany. We ask our elected officials to take on long overdue legal reforms, including Scaffold Law reform, transparency in asbestos litigation, stronger rules for experts and evidence in the courtroom, judgment interest rates in line with market rates, and fair share liability.

New York has been ‘Sue York’ for too long. We have no future as the lawsuit capital of the world. Today marks the beginning of a new era of justice, fairness, and common sense.”

-Tom Stebbins, Executive Director, Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York

Contact: Phoebe Stonbely | PStonbely@lrany.org | 518.512.5265

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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.

PDF of Full Statement

New York Law Journal: Speaker’s Arrest Prompts Calls for Change and Patience

In response to Speaker Silver’s arrest yesterday, the New York Law Journal ran an article today highlighting the facts of the situation and recording reactions from many, including LRANY Executive Director, Tom Stebbins.

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An excerpt:

“Tom Stebbins, the director of a business-supported Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, said Silver’s five-count criminal complaint suggests Silver’s role as a personal injury lawyer could have prevented him from allowing scaffold law reforms to be considered.

“It seems that Speaker Silver was opposing things like scaffold or asbestos transparency reform in part for the payments from Weitz & Luxenberg and not what was good for the people of the state of New York,” Stebbins said in an interview. “He was the roadblock to a lot of these reforms.”

Stebbins said his group, which is allied with the Business Council, the Partnership for New York City and the National Federation of Independent Businesses, favors distributing liability in instances where workers are injured in falls from heights, or are hurt by falling objects, in proportion to the fault that can be ascribed to worker, contractor or construction site owner.”

Read Full Article

Statement in Response to the 2015 State of the State from Tom Stebbins, Executive Director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY)

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“We commend Governor Cuomo’s commitment to improving our state’s infrastructure – but unfortunately, hundreds of millions of these dollars will be wasted because of the archaic “Scaffold Law. ” Due to the imbalanced liability standards of this outdated law, nearly a billion taxpayer dollars are wasted each year. The law unfairly burdens small businesses and creates barriers for NY firms bidding on infrastructure projects, costing jobs and ultimately leading to the crumbling roads, highways, and bridges we are left with today. If Governor Cuomo is serious about creating jobs and improving infrastructure in New York, he should champion sensible reform of the Scaffold Law.”

Tom Stebbins
Executive Director
Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York

Letter: Schools Suffer Under State’s Scaffold Law

In today’s Times Union, LRANY Executive Director Tom Stebbins writes that the Scaffold Law is siphoning critical dollars from our educational system.

New York voters approved the $2 billion “Smart Schools Bond Act” for school construction and technology upgrades. Sadly, much of that money will be wasted due to a law that only exists in New York: Our notorious Scaffold Law.

The law doesn’t really have much to do with scaffolds. What it does is hold contractors and property owners (including schools) absolutely liable in lawsuits for all gravity-related injuries, regardless of contributing fault by the worker. If gravity is involved (which is common here on Earth), the contractor and school are 100 percent liable for an injury, even if the worker was 99 percent responsible.

This seemingly small liability law has a massive price tag with no perceivable safety benefit. Schools are especially hard hit; the New York City School Construction Authority recently had to pay $200 million for just one year of “owner controlled insurance.”

Read the full letter here

Photos: Annual Meeting and Scaffold Law Reform Summit

On November 19th, LRANY hosted our first Annual Meeting and Key Issues Summit focused on Scaffold Law reform. The day included an overview of recent Court of Appeals rulings, a luncheon, keynote address by singer Collette McLafferty, and panel discussions on the legal, insurance, and political dimensions of the Scaffold Law.

Thanks to all who attended and our generous sponsors! We hope to see you all next year.

Photos can be found here: http://on.fb.me/1L3Ii6c

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Lawyers Association Committee Latest to Call for Scaffold Law Reform


Lawyers Association Committee Latest to Call for Scaffold Law Reform 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Albany, NY (November 13, 2014)–  The New York County Lawyers Association (NYCLA) Construction Committee has issued a 65-page report titled “New York’s Scaffold Law and Pending Reforms,” which concludes that the Scaffold Law is a failed public policy and should be reformed to allow liability to be apportioned based on actual fault.

The comprehensive report addresses Labor Law 240, also known as the Scaffold Law, which imposes total liability on contractors and property owners in lawsuit for gravity-related construction accidents. The report assesses the law in terms of fairness, impact on society, and worker safety, and explores pending reform legislation.

The committee concluded that, “The continuously expanding application of the Scaffold Law runs counter to the codified public policy in New York, which favors a fair and equitable balance among parties causing and suffering an injury.” The committee strongly recommended the law be reformed. “…principles of equity and fairness, the codified public policy on New York State, and the goals of improving worker and worksite safety and achieving positive economic growth within New York demand that the defense of comparative negligence be applied to the adjudication of Scaffold Law claims.”

The NYCLA Construction Committee is the latest to support reform of the Scaffold Law as have over 60 associations representing members of the business, construction, real estate, insurance, engineering, manufacturing, agricultural, municipal, and nonprofit communities.

The Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, a nonprofit, non-partisan advocacy group committed to ending lawsuit abuse in New York, applauded the committee. “We are excited to see members of the legal community take a stand on this critical issue” said Tom Stebbins, LRANY’s Executive Director. “The Scaffold Law costs billions, causes injuries, and worst of all, bars defendants from getting their day in court. Any lawyer who supports the American justice system should support Scaffold Law reform.”

The NYCLA’s tort law committee issued a competing report supporting the Scaffold Law. The Lawsuit Reform Alliance chided the report saying, “the tort committee’s report was drafted by the people that benefit from the Scaffold Law: personal injury trial lawyers. It’s filled with supposition, irrelevant data and defense for the status quo. Since no other state and no other part of New York’s civil justice system has a similar law, the legal defense was dubious at best.”

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The Construction Committee report can be accessed here: http://www.nycla.org/siteFiles/Publications/Publications1729_0.pdf

 

For more information, please contact Tom Stebbins, Executive Director of LRANY at 518-512-5265 or tstebbins@lrany.org.

The Journal News: Scaffold Law Driving up Costs on New TZB

This week, The Journal News published a letter to the editor written by LRANY’s Scott W. Hobson.  This letter was in response to a September 17 article:  Tappan Zee Bridge: State to fight EPA ruling on loan.  Hobson points to the Scaffold Law as a means of decreasing costs for the new Tappan Zee Bridge project.

An excerpt:

“The recent news that New York State has been denied more than $481 million in federal loans for the construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge is a timely reminder to take a hard look at the reasons infrastructure construction is so astoundingly expensive in New York.

One of the most significant cost drivers is the New York-only “Scaffold Law,” which imposes total and virtually inescapable liability on contractors and property owners in lawsuits for gravity-related construction accidents. Not surprisingly, this law is the single greatest source of litigation in New York, accounting for more than half of the highest legal settlements in 2012.”

Read Full Letter

For Immediate Release: Lawsuit Reform Group Releases “Justice for All” Plan

LRANY

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 30th, 2014
Contact: Phoebe Stonbely
518.512.5265
pstonbely@lrany.org

Lawsuit Reform Group Releases “Justice for All” Plan

For Immediate Release (Albany, NY): The Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY), a nonprofit advocacy group focused on legal reform, released its five-point legislative agenda today, entitled “Justice for All: A Roadmap to Fix New York’s Civil Justice System.”

LRANY Executive Director Tom Stebbins highlighted the need for such a plan, saying “By virtually every measure, New York is the lawsuit capital of the world. We are worst in the nation for litigation risk and third highest for per-capita lawsuit costs. That costs taxpayers, kills jobs, and drives investment out of the state.” The plan addresses five areas of New York’s civil justice system which the group says contribute to lawsuit abuse and excessive litigation.

The five-point plan focuses on the following issues:

Reform the “Scaffold Law”: New York’s “Scaffold Law,” the only of its kind in the nation, imposes total and virtually inescapable civil liability upon property owners and contractors for gravity-related construction accidents. Any contributing fault of the employee for the injury is not considered in court. This has resulted in a surge of opportunistic lawsuits which have dramatically increased the cost of construction. The law must be reformed to allow liability to be apportioned according to actual fault, as is the case in all other states.

End “trial by ambush”: New York does not currently have a statewide time frame for disclosure of expert witnesses. In practice, disclosure is deliberately withheld in order to coerce defendants into a settlement without full knowledge of the strength of the case against them, which compromises parties’ right to due process. The law must be amended to require disclosure of experts prior to the point at which the case is certified as ready for trial.

Keep junk science out of the courtroom: New York’s antiquated standard of evidence predates the Great Depression, and requires only that theories of evidence be “widely accepted.” This standard is inadequate for the 21st century, and allows lawsuits predicated on unsound theories. The law must be amended to require evidentiary theories to be based on scientifically verifiable methods, as is the case Federal court and a vast majority of other states.

Link judgment interest to the market rate: In New York, judgments accrue interest at a rate of 9% annually for as long as a case is pending. This fixed rate does not account for changing market conditions, dramatically inflates award values and creates a strong disincentive for defendants to appeal a ruling. The interest rate must be linked to the federal funds rate.

Enact “fair share liability”: Under New York’s current standard of “joint and several” liability, in a lawsuit with multiple defendants, one defendant as little as 1% responsible can be held fully liable for the full amount of a judgment if the other party is unable to pay their share. New York must adopt “fair share liability,” under which liability is always apportioned proportional to fault.

Stebbins stressed the need for these reforms to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits currently advancing, and winning, in New York’s courtrooms. “We must close the loopholes in our law which allow people to abuse the legal system for profit while also preserving access to the justice system for everyone. These five reforms are critical first steps down that path.”

Stebbins highlighted the multi-billion dollar benefits of legal reform, including the creation of as many as 200,000 new jobs, $1.04 billion in new tax revenues, and $17 billion in increased economic output. “For years, New Yorkers have been calling for common sense measures to curb lawsuit abuse. Now our elected officials have a roadmap for achieving that goal.”

The 5-point plan can be accessed here.

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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.

PDF Press Release