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Battle Over New York’s Scaffold Law Continues

Other than arguments over who makes the best slice of pizza, there may not be any fight in New York that has lasted as long as the battle over the state’s scaffold law. The statute protects workers by allowing them to bring a lawsuit instead of a workers’ compensation claim when their injury is caused by a defective or damaged ladder, scaffold or piece of climbing equipment. The law, which applies any time a laborer is working at an elevated height or something drops from above, has existed in various forms since 1885.

As happens nearly every year, legislators, lobbyists and attorneys continue to argue this year about one controversial aspect of this law: unless the worker is totally and completely at fault for his or her own injury, the employer has to pay the full cost of the damages.

This concept is known as absolute liability, and very few laws work this way. Typically, in any New York case involving negligence, the actions of all parties are taken into account, and damages are apportioned based on the amount of responsibility that lies with each party.

While those fighting against the law argue that they are just trying to bring it in line with other laws in the state of New York and other scaffold laws throughout the country, advocates of the statute believe that it keeps construction sites safer by forcing employers to pay attention to the condition of their equipment or risk major financial losses.

People across the political spectrum have a stake in this battle. Those seeking affordable housing in New York City and on Long Island believe the law makes construction too expensive, while those who represent workers claim that it is unfair to put the burden of inspecting and maintaining equipment on individual workers who have little power to control their working conditions.

The experienced and knowledgeable scaffold injury attorneys at Jakubowski, Robertson, Maffei, Goldsmith & Tartaglia help workers pursue justice after a fall. If you have been hurt on a construction or demolition site, contact us to schedule a consultation. Se habla español.

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