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Letter: Silver indictment offers hope for lawsuit reform

Silver indictment offers hope for lawsuit reform

News that former speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver has been indicted by a federal grand jury on corruption and conspiracy charges has spurred a renewed sense of optimism for supporters of common-sense lawsuit reform.

Silver, who served “of counsel” to a large personal injury law firm, was long seen as the greatest obstacle to lawsuit reform, unwilling to even consider proposals that would erode his personal profits and those of his employer. And while the personal injury lawyers thrived under Silver’s leadership, the rest of the state, particularly upstate, suffered. Thanks in no small part to our oppressive legal climate, many businesses have been forced to close or flee the state, taking jobs and tax dollars with them.

Consider the Scaffold Law, an archaic and baffling statute that imposes total liability on property owners and contractors in lawsuits for elevation-related construction accidents, regardless of any contributing fault of a worker. We’re all paying for this law, which is estimated to cost taxpayers almost $8 billion in the next decade. Meanwhile, small businesses across the state are being obliterated by skyrocketing insurance premiums, legal costs and settlements.

Scaffold Law reform has bipartisan support from lawmakers across the state, yet as speaker, Silver refused to allow a vote on any of the many proposed bills. Now, with new leadership comes a new opportunity to restore a measure of sanity to our legal system. Our message to the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo? It’s time to act.

Scott W. Hobson

Manager of Government Affairs

Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York