Crain’s: Critics blame scaffold law for megaproject’s insurance costs ballooning 557%

At the end of July, Crain’s New York Business ran an article about how New York’s Scaffold Law increases insurance costs on all construction projects in the state:

Documents from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s board meeting last week show that insurance costs on East Side Access, the decade-delayed effort to link the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central, have ballooned 557% from the original estimates.

That was all the opportunity opponents of New York’s “scaffold law” needed to call attention to the statute, which is unique to the state.

“Insurers, it has been documented over and over, have left the market because of the scaffold law,” said Tom Stebbins, of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, a tort-reform group. “These are billion-dollar policies and people don’t want [to sell] them. That should tell you something.”

Stebbins noted that numerous judicial rulings in the past decade have expanded the scaffold law’s application to cover more and more workers hurt on the job, and he cited a report Willis itself published in 2017, which identified the law as the “primary culprit” for New York’s “highly litigious environment.” The result has been what Willis, which did not respond to a request for comment, termed an “insurance crisis.”

Read the full article here.

Governing: In World’s Most Expensive City for Building, an Attempt to Lower Costs

Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York executive director Tom Stebbins was quoted in an article at Governing about how the state’s Scaffold Law leads to increased costs and delays, and the impact that reforming the law through Congress will have on work site safety:

The federal legislation targets New York’s 1885 Scaffold Act, which imposes absolute liability on a property owner or construction employer in any case of a work-related fall. According to a 2013 Rockefeller Institute report, the law has the effect of increasing construction costs by about 7 percent. Although most states had such a law on the books a century ago, federal health and safety protections and state workers’ compensation laws have supplanted scaffold laws everywhere except New York.

“It’s important to note the bill we’re advocating for doesn’t alter safety provisions,” says Tom Stebbins, executive director of the tort reform group Lawsuit Reform Alliance New York. “It just applies liability for these injuries the way it’s done elsewhere.”

Read the full article here.

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

Poozer Politics: The Loan behind the Lawsuit

Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York Executive Director Tom Stebbins joined Poozer Politics to highlight the problems with lawsuit lenders and outline a legislative fix to the situation. He also explained how lenders are piggybacking on the #MeToo movement and was awarded 90 seconds to argue for Scaffold Law reform.

To listen to the full episode of Poozer Politics, click here.



Committee Decision on Federal Scaffold Law Reform Bill an Important Step in Ensuring Infrastructure Dollars Go Further

WASHINGTON, DC – The House Judiciary Committee today favorably reported a bill introduced by Rep. John Faso (R-Kinderhook) called the Infrastructure Expansion Act of 2017.

The bill, H.R. 3808 would allow any project financed with federal taxpayer dollars to utilize the same liability standard found in every other state. Currently, under a unique statute known as the ‘Scaffold Law,’ New York is the only state in the country that applies absolute liability to property owners and contractors in the event of a gravity-related work-site accident.

Tom Stebbins, the executive director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York celebrated the committee’s decision. “Today marks tremendous progress towards ensuring that federal infrastructure dollars are not wasted. This bill will make more infrastructure improvement possible, without compromising quality or safety,” he said.

In addition to the 75+ member Scaffold Law Reform Coalition, the bill is supported by:

  • Habitat for Humanity of New York State (Link)
  • Associated General Contractors of New York (Link)
  • New York State Association for Affordable Housing (Link)
  • New York State Conference of Mayors (Link)
  • Partnership for New York City (Link)

Learn more at




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.