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.
You can find more information in our issue papers below:
Now is the time to make a difference! Tell your legislator that you want Scaffold Law reform. New Yorkers have borne this burden too long, and we need change to bring jobs back to the state!
SB.111 / AB.3104 would hold workers liable for their fair share of fault when they act negligently, refuse to use safety devices, or are impaired by drugs or alcohol. This common sense reform would restore balance to the legal process and ensure that everyone is treated fairly.
It’s time to set the record straight about New York's Scaffold Law.
Myth: Scaffold Law reform would have little or no effect on job creation.
Fact: Since Illinois repealed its Scaffold Law in 1995, the number of construction jobs rose 25%, from 211,000 in 1994 to 265,000 in 2000. In New York, a recent study by the Pacific Research Institute estimated that Scaffold Law reform could create as many as 86,000 jobs.
Myth: Reforming the Scaffold Law would make work sites less safe
Fact: Following Illinois' Scaffold Law repeal in 1995, construction site safety improved dramatically. Between 1995 and 2000, construction site fatalities declined as a percentage of construction workers by 30%. The Scaffold Law disconnects workers from responsibility for their actions, which is inconsistent with the goal of safety. In fact, a study by the Albany Law Program on Intragovernmental Affairs concluded the absolute liability standard of the Scaffold Law does not drive workplace safety. And despite having the Scaffold Law, the rate of construction injuries in New York exceeds that of other states with major metropolitan areas such as Florida, Texas, and Illinois.
Myth: The Scaffold Law only affects contractors and builders
Fact: Every New Yorker pays for the Scaffold Law. On average, the Scaffold Law adds $10,000 to the cost of a new home. Taxes are assessed according to the value of a home, which is inflated due to the cost of the Scaffold Law, and homeowners pay those increased taxes for as long as they own the home. Additionally, local governments and taxpayers pay more for insurance because of the Scaffold Law. Pure premium losses for construction projects in New York, especially New York City, are the highest in the Nation by a factor of three, and these costs are a significant factor in every taxpayer funded construction project - from roads and bridges to repairs to government owned buildings and schools. Moreover, municipalities bear the cost of judgments and settlements when they are sued under the Scaffold Law.
Bill SB.111/AB.3104 provides for a fair and equitable approach to Scaffold Law reform that insures both the safety of the workers and the workplace as well as a course of defense for responsible contractors. This proposal will greatly increase fairness in our legal system while strengthening the economy and promoting job creation.
- Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York
- Associated General Contractors of New York State
- New York State Builders Association
- Business Council of New York State
- New York Farm Bureau
- National Federation of Independent Business
- Unshackle Upstate
- The Real Estate Board of New York
- Construction Exchange of Buffalo and Western New York
- Manufacturers Association of Central New York
- Subcontractors Trade Association NYC
- The Construction Industry Council
- Building Trades Employers Association
- Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce
- Queens Chamber of Commerce
- Buffalo Niagara Partnership
- Rochester Business Alliance
- Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce
- General Contractors Association of New York
- Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc.
- Eastern Contractors Association
- Rochester Home Builders Association
- Empire State Subcontractors Association
- Builders Association of Hudson Valley
- Manhattan Chamber of Commerce
- Allied Building Metal Industries, Inc.
- Home Builders and Remodelers of Central New York
- Hudson Valley Mechanical Contractors Association
- Associated Builders and Owners of Greater New York
- Western New York Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Contractors
- Westchester County Association
- Syracuse Builders Exchange
- New York State Association for Affordable Housing
- Northeastern Retail Lumber Association
- Long Island Builders Institute
- Cool Insuring Agency
- Roarke Custom Builders