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Reforming Scaffold Law should be a top priority

The News’ excellent coverage of the tragic Bissell case (“Judges advise Amherst on how to collect millions from state agency”) is a timely reminder that those impacted by Labor Law 240, also known as the Scaffold Law, are not always contractors, but often municipalities, schools and even the state itself. And those who pay for this law are not just builders, but taxpayers like those in Amherst who are now facing a $13.4 million bill.

The largest Scaffold Law settlement in 2012 was against a school district, and recently the state of New York was held fully liable for injuries where the plaintiff used the wrong ladder. Abuse of the Scaffold Law is rampant, because the absolute liability standard imposed by the law leaves defendants with little defense against a claim.

The public cost of this law extends beyond New York’s schools and municipalities. Public infrastructure projects cost millions more because of the Scaffold Law. Estimates suggest that the law will add $200 million to $400 million to the cost of the Tappan Zee Bridge.

The cost to New York’s businesses is similarly staggering. Insurance for private building projects in New York costs 300 percent to 1,200 percent more because of the Scaffold Law, and many insurers will not write construction insurance policies at any price.

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo looks to make New York “open for business” and reduce burdensome mandates, reforming the Scaffold Law should be a top priority. Doing so would create jobs and strengthen our economy, benefitting taxpayers and businesses alike.

Thomas B. Stebbins

Executive Director

Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York