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Letter: Repealing Scaffold Law is common-sense reform

Repealing Scaffold Law is common-sense reform

New York is no stranger to infrastructure concerns, so it is not surprising that the state ranked just five spots from the bottom for the worst roads in the nation, as reported in the Sept. 25 article, “New York’s roads in deep rut, ranked 45th in nation.” Listed even further behind on spending per road mile, this is indicative of a crisis.

All construction in the state, even road work, is impacted by the inequities of the costly Scaffold Law, a law that exists only in New York. Due to this unfair law, many insurance companies have fled the state completely, and the few left have been forced to charge prohibitive premiums. Indeed, a large portion of the funds allocated for building are ultimately wasted on insurance and litigation.

The law holds contractors and property owners, including municipalities, absolutely liable in lawsuits for gravity-related construction injuries, ignoring the contributing fault of the worker. And these lawsuit payouts are in addition to the workers’ compensation system.

New York, especially upstate, finishes last all too often – and many of the root problems could be solved with simple civil justice reforms. Advocates have been pushing for comparative negligence in Scaffold Law claims for years. This would lower construction insurance, and repurpose wasted dollars for further building and maintenance.

It’s due time for our elected officials to take action to retain the state’s businesses, population and capital. Without common-sense reforms, New York will continue to lag behind other states when it comes to the regulatory climate and infrastructure costs.

Phoebe E. Stonbely

Manager of Operations and Outreach

Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York

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