Syracuse Roofing Contractor Calls Outdated Scaffold Law "Golden Goose" for Trial Lawyers

Dec 27, 2013

Central New York contractors and business advocacy groups are hoping the approaching new year finally brings reform to a nearly 130-year-old liability law.   

  "The scaffold law is such an indicator of what we refer to as the old New York."

Brian Sampson is with the pro-taxpayer and economic growth group Unshackle Upstate…

 "It's a law that's been on the books for well over a century.  It doesn't purport to do anything that the advocates for it claim it will do.  It's simply the goose that laid the golden egg for the trial bar." Andrew Shaffer:"The leaders there now profit quite greatly from these laws.  Why would they kill their golden goose."  Andrew Shaffer is owner of Shaffer Building Services in Syracuse.  He’s been in the roofing industry for 40 years.  


"If someone falls, and they're under my employ, whether they're listening to directions or following company policy, if they get hurt on a gravity-related issue, then, no matter what, it's my fault."

  Shaffer and dozens of other advocacy groups representing contractors, developers, insurers, and municipalities are calling for Governor Cuomo to include reforms in his upcoming state budget.  The Scaffold Law places absolute liability on the owner, and no responsibility on the worker.  Shaffer says unfortunately, most rank-and-file lawmakers are uninformed…  "I would have to say only a third of them were aware of what this was about; the other two-thirds asked me silly questions like, will this make the workers more unsafe.  I tell them this has nothing to do with safety, it has everything to do with lawsuits."  …Lawsuits that Shaffer says add to insurance and building costs for both public and private projects.  In fact, The Scaffold Law Reform Coalition says such lawsuits represented 16 of the top 30 settlements in new york in 2012.  New York is the only state in the nation to still have such a law.  The last state to repeal a similar law was Illinois…in 1995.