Hold people accountable for their own negligence

I am writing on behalf of the Executive Committee of the Greater Buffalo Building Owners & Managers Association to support The News editorial regarding the reform of the Scaffold Law.

We were dismayed to read the opinion of Joanne Doroshow, the executive director of the New York City-based Center for Justice and Democracy, who claims she is baffled by the editorial in favor of reforming the absolute liability standard of the Scaffold Law, as 49 other states have done. We see nothing baffling about holding people accountable for their own negligence.

Doroshow states that case law has “watered down” the absolute liability standard of the Scaffold Law. It would appear that nothing could be further from the truth. Two recent cases from New York’s highest court have significantly expanded the law.

The first case, Runner v. New York Stock Exchange from 2009, changed the standard from elevation-related, to “gravity-related,” which, as some have joked, means that if it happens on Earth, absolute liability applies.

The second, Wilinski v. 334 East 92nd Housing from 2011, established the “same height” rule, applying absolute liability even in cases of no elevation.

Finally, organizations like Doroshow’s attempt to place the blame on insurance companies, but the fact is that most insurers, many who operate nationwide, won’t write policies in New York because of the Scaffold Law. That is the fault of Doroshow, her personal injury attorney members and others who defend the Scaffold Law, not the insurers.

We endorse any and all efforts to reform the Scaffold Law in the state of New York.

Kevin T. Hassen

President, Greater Buffalo BOMA