Zack Hutchins
Director of Communications

For Release — Tuesday, June 5, 2007


ALBANY—The Business Council today joined many other business associations and groups representing New York's agriculture sector and construction industry in urging Governor Eliot Spitzer and state legislators to reform once and for all New York's infamous "Scaffold Law."

"The 'Scaffold Law,' sections 240/241 of the state's Labor Law, imposes absolute liability on New York's property-owners and contractors in cases of worksite injuries. This means that, in claims stemming from worksite injuries, these owners and contractors cannot even defend themselves by introducing evidence of their own commitment to safety or of worker negligence," said Kenneth Adams, president and CEO of The Business Council.

"In this way, New York State has abandoned the common-sense fairness standard of letting people defend themselves against accusations," Adams added. "The effects of the Scaffold Law are nasty: inflated business insurance costs, and higher costs of goods, services, and taxes for all New Yorkers."

Adams argued that the Scaffold Law's absolute-liability standard should be replaced by a fairer negligence-based standard.

The Scaffold Law affects farmers by increasing construction costs of agricultural buildings, including dairy barns, milking parlors, cold storage facilities, packing houses, and other large structures.

The Scaffold Law makes construction costs of agricultural buildings in New York far higher than similar structures in other states or other parts of the world. This puts New York farmers at a competitive disadvantage and forces extreme liability exposure in the agricultural community.

"Farm Bureau continues to make repeal of the onerous Scaffold Law a high priority for the end of session," said Julie Suarez, director of public policy for New York Farm Bureau. "We cannot let this law further erode the business climate of Upstate New York, which desperately needs to see increased investment in the agricultural and related agricultural business sector of the economy."

Mike Elmendorf, state director for NFIB, said, "240/241, the dreaded ‘Scaffold Law,' is probably one of the most glaring examples of what's wrong in New York. It is a law that has far outlived any usefulness, and which serves no public interest whatsoever. It tremendously and needlessly drives up costs on businesses and consumers, and is a virtual ATM machine for trial lawyers who use this statute to effectively fleece business owners who in most cases have done no wrong. The ‘Scaffold Law' saps our competitiveness and threatens the livelihood of far too many New Yorkers. The time for it to go was long ago—let this be the year that this flawed, destructive law is finally repealed. We look forward to working with our allies in the Legislature, and with Governor Spitzer, who has voiced support for correcting this wrong, to get it done."

Edwyna Barstow, CEO of Oaktree Homes in Oneonta, New York, said, "General contractors continue to be strangled by the archaic 240-241 law. The only beneficiaries of this unfair law are attorneys who make their living from lawsuits originating in the bowels of this long-since outdated ruling. All 49 states other than New York have managed and are managing to see that those injured in falls at job sites are receiving compensation via other means, means also available here. The time has come for Governor Spitzer to deliver on his promise to help rebuild the economy in Upstate New York. A major first step in this promise would be initiating repeal of the Scaffold Law, allowing contractors to move forward without this prejudiced, warped, and one-sided burden."

Chris Wiest, vice president of public policy and advocacy for the Rochester Business Alliance and a representative of Unshackle Upstate, said, "Liability insurance costs more in New York State than anywhere else, which gets passed on to taxpayers to the tune of thousands of extra dollars in construction costs on homes and public projects. This law is hurting taxpayers and costing our state jobs. It needs to be changed."

Louis Coletti, president and CEO of the Building Trades Employers' Association, said, "Labor Law 240 is the most costly insurance related issue facing contractors in today's construction market. Failure to reform absolute liability will result in an increased spending of tax dollars paying for claims rather than public improvements and could jeopardize the economic viability of some private projects."

Phil LaRocque, executive vice president of the N.Y.S. Builders Association, Inc., said, "The New York State Builders Association has been a leader for several years in calling for significant change in this archaic and unfair statute. Builders, subcontractors and building owners should have a fighting chance to defend themselves like their counterparts in the other 49 states when, in fact, under this law, they cannot. Our thousands of members' commercial liability insurance premiums remain 500 percent higher today than five years ago, provide less coverage. and are mainly underwritten by non-admitted insurance carriers (where there is no state regulatory authority) primarily due to the absolute liability standard found in the Scaffold Law. Earlier this year, we reformed workers' compensation. It is now time to take on this even more onerous anti-business behemoth."

Jeffrey Zogg, executive director of the General Building Contractors of New York State, said, "The legislative solution we seek is a simple and equitable one: Allow contractors and subcontractors who engage in safe construction practice to defend themselves in court. Those contractors who don't train, equip, and manage safely will continue to be subject to the absolute liability standard of the existing law."

Organizations that are urging Albany to repeal the Scaffold Law include:

The Business Council of New York State The Otsego County Chamber
Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce
National Federation of Independent Business Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce
Unshackle Upstate Coalition New York Farm Bureau
New York State Builders Association, Inc The Chamber of Schenectady County
General Building Contractors of New York State Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce
New York State School Boards Association Manhattan Chamber of Commerce
Building Employer Trades Association The Chamber of Southern Saratoga County
Rome Area Chamber of Commerce Main Street Small Business Coalition
The Business Council of Westchester Staten Island Chamber of Commerce
Corning Area Chamber of Commerce Orchard Park Chamber of Commerce