The Mandate: Enacted in 1885, the Scaffold Law holds contractors, employers and property owners absolutely liable for gravity-related injuries, even if the worker was grossly negligent. Municipalities are large property owners, and as such, are faced with widespread liability for accidents that occur on worksites beyond their supervision.
The Cost: As a result of this heightened liability, municipalities often face significantly higher insurance premiums, particularly when municipalities are self-insured. Furthermore, a judgment or settlement based on the Scaffold Law often exceeds the municipality's insurance coverage, imposing further costs on local governments. Studies have shown that general liability insurance premiums have skyrocketed due to increased litigation resulting from the Scaffold Law. In fact, New York – the only state with this law on the books – has insurance premiums that are 300% to 1200% higher than any other state in the country. Many insurance carriers have been forced to leave the market, citing the high costs associated with the absolute liability standard set forth in the Scaffold Law. As a result, municipalities involved in construction projects are faced with significantly high construction costs.
The Solution: In light of the damaging effect of the Scaffold Law on local governments and their taxpayers, NYCOM supports S.111/A.3104, sponsored by Senator Gallivan and Assemblyman Morelle, which we believe offers common sense reform to the Scaffold Law. This bill would amend the Civil Practice Law and Rules to establish a comparative negligence standard for personal injury, property damage or wrongful death actions arising under the Scaffold Law when the employee has committed a criminal act, used drugs or alcohol, failed to use safety devices, or failed to comply with employer instructions or safe work practices when a cause of action accrued. This legislation would create a more equitable standard, holding an employee who directly contributes to his injury liable for his or her apportionment of fault.