Recently in the New York Law Journal, Harry Steinberg argued that the Scaffold Law has been expanded and misinterpreted to the point of breaking:
I write to address Brian Shoot’s construction accident litigation column, “Myth of the Intoxicated but Victorious Plaintiff,” (Nov. 14) in which he once again tirelessly defends Labor Law §240(1) against any reforms. His column, written in response to another column calling for reform, amounts to little more than plaintiff’s counsel and defendant’s counsel yelling back and forth at each other while ignoring that there is merit to both sides of the argument. Section 240(1) does serve an important purpose, but the statute could stand to be reformed because it has been stretched and misinterpreted beyond the breaking point.
For example, there are entirely too many cases in which partial summary judgment is granted in unwitnessed accident cases in which a defendant cannot defend itself, even when there is very strong evidence that a ladder or scaffold was misused by, for example, a worker stretching to reach his work because he’s too lazy to move the ladder or scaffold.
There are also too many cases in which workers get partial summary judgment even when they have knowingly placed the ladder on a surface that they knew could not support it.