The Business Council of New York State strongly supports this legislation which would establish a comparative negligence standard to be used for actions brought under Labor Law Section 240/241.
Sections 240 and 241 of the Labor Law, which date back to the late 1800s, provide that if a worker is injured on the job as a result of falling from a height, or being hit with something that falls from a height, the owner and the contractor are absolutely liable. This is true even if the worker is at fault – for example, if the worker refused to use safety equipment or was impaired by drugs or alcohol. No other state maintains such a law — except New York.
What makes these sections of the law such a significant problem is that they impose a condition of absolute liability on the owner and/or contractor for injuries proximately caused, without regard to either negligence or comparative negligence and irrespective of any lack of control or direction of the work. No other state recognizes, either by legislation or under the common law, such a cause of action. The State of Illinois, effective in February 1995, repealed its ‘Structural Work Act,’ which was comparable to the New York’s law.
This is not just a construction issue. Owners having work done on their premises have also had to pay large judgments under 240/241, even though the injured worker was employed by a subcontractor. The laws have affected not only the construction community but, manufacturers, commercial property owners, as well as private home owners who employ contractors for home improvements.
The Business Council of New York State has long urged the Legislature to reform Sections 240 and 241 of the Labor Law, the so-called “