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Pass sensible reform of state’s Scaffold Law

The recent settlement between the Town of Amherst and the State Insurance Fund highlights the need for New York’s lawmakers to reform the state’s outdated Scaffold Law.

The Scaffold Law, which exists only in New York, holds contractors, employers and property owners absolutely liable for elevation-related injuries. It leaves defendants, which can include local governments, with virtually no opportunity to defend themselves in a court of law.

The Scaffold Law imposes huge costs on consumers and taxpayers. Since there is no defense to these cases, general liability insurance has become outrageously expensive. This drives up construction costs and property taxes.

According to a 2012 study from the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, lawsuits cost municipalities across the state $1 billion annually. Passing sensible reforms currently sponsored by Sen. Patrick Gallivan and Assemblyman Joe Morelle would help grow construction jobs, heighten awareness of existing safety measures and lower the cost of new projects.

The proposed reforms will not eliminate a person’s ability to pursue legal action. But when employees knowingly and willfully violate safety guidelines, their actions will be a part of any legal proceeding. Currently, because of the Scaffold Law, they are not.

This law is a prime example of why New York’s business climate is one of the worst in the nation. It is a clear example of how the old New York has never really left. It’s time to pass sensible Scaffold Law reform to protect injured workers and taxpayers, and prevent other municipalities from facing the same fate as Amherst.

Brian Sampson

Executive Director

Unshackle Upstate