Today in Property Casualty 360*. Joseph Jaafari highlights the ongoing battle over the Scaffold Law.
Insurance companies and construction businesses are in open war with trial lawyers and labor unions over New York’s 129-year-old “Scaffold Law,” which institutes absolute liability on contractors if an employee is injured or killed on the job.
The law, put in place in 1885, was drafted to protect construction workers in high-elevation situations (at the time the tallest skyscraper in New York City was a 281-foot spire at Wall Street’s Trinity Church), and made contractors liable in gravity-related accidents, such as falling from a platform.
Over the past few decades, the law has seen a number of reforms by courts who have included falling objects and required safety implementations, but it’s also put into place a number of safeguards for construction companies that had feared employees could get a pass by filing a lawsuit and reaping millions, such as requiring workers to prove that an accident was safety-related.