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Business Council Of Westchester Reforms 'Scaffold Law'

“Scaffold Law” has been interpreted to impose 100 percent liability on contractors and property owners for gravity-related injuries.
“Scaffold Law” has been interpreted to impose 100 percent liability on contractors and property owners for gravity-related injuries. Photo Credit: nylawsuitreform.org

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – The Business Council of Westchester joined local contractors, advocates and business professionals in Albany to lobby for reform of the "Scaffold Law," which they say is driving up construction costs across New York.

The law is known as the “Scaffold Law,” and it has been interpreted to impose 100 percent liability on contractors and property owners for gravity-related injuries, regardless of any contributing fault by the worker. The law only exists in New York.

“The Scaffold Law is the greatest symbol of New York’s hostility towards business,” said John Ravitz, executive vice president and COO of The Business Council of Westchester. “It drives up the cost of any building in New York, including public projects like bridges and schools. Everyone is paying for this Scaffold Law.”

As evidence, Ravitz cited a report from the Rockefeller Institute of Government that estimates the law costs $785 million in taxpayer dollars annually.

Advocates are looking to change the law from the current “absolute liability” standard to what they say is a more equitable “comparative negligence” standard, where the contributing fault of the employee is considered by the court.

Ravitz, a former member of the state Assembly, said the current standard is unjust in that it is not fair to hold a business liable for something when they are not at fault.

The powerful trial lawyer lobby has been the principal opposition to Scaffold Law reform, but with Speaker Sheldon Silver’s arrest on charges of a bribery scheme involving a personal injury law firm, groups like The Business Council of Westchester are hopeful this year they finally can achieve their goals. With new leadership in the Assembly, reformers are hopeful changes to this law can be made.

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