Knowledge is power. Civil law can be complex, but the problems with the Scaffold Law are easy to understand.
The Scaffold Law was first enacted in 1885, long before the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Workers' Compensation. Under the Scaffold Law, contractors, employers and property owners are held absolutely liable for elevation related injuries. This means that in a lawsuit, the contractor, employer, or property owner is automatically fully at fault, even if the worker was grossly negligent. Contrary to the most basic principles of justice, defendants have virtually no opportunity to defend themselves in court.
New York is the only state in the nation where a contractor or property owner cannot defend themselves in court against a negligent worker. Illinois was the last state besides New York to remove this law from their books in 1995. By reforming the law, we can encourage greater responsibility and improve workplace safety.
The tremendous costs of the Scaffold Law are passed along to workers and consumers. Since there is virtually no defense against a million-dollar Scaffold Law suit, the cost of general liability insurance in New York is extremely high, and unaffordable to many who need it. This has a significant impact across New York: construction costs go up, fewer workers are hired (with some being laid off), consumers pay higher prices for goods and services, and the economy suffers.
Reforming the Scaffold Law would stimulate the economy, create jobs, and reduce workplace injuries.
Bill SB.111/AB.3104 would not prevent injured workers from bringing lawsuits for their injuries. Nor would it prevent injured workers from receiving workers’ compensation benefits. This common-sense reform would simply give New York property owners, business owners, and contractors the chance to defend themselves in court when injuries caused are the result of the worker's own negligence or intoxication.
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