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Lawmakers Pursue Changes to Construction Liability Law

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Labor unions, developers, and business interests all over New York will be watching Albany this week, as a state law that has benefited injured construction workers for over a century is in danger of undergoing serious change.

The so-called "Scaffold Law" was passed in 1885 and—in the event of workplace injury and subsequent lawsuit—essentially places the burden of responsibility on the contractor to prove that the job site was safe for workers. Since the original legislation does not address worker liability, State Senator Patrick Gallivan (R-Erie) and Assemblyman Joe Morrelle (D-Rochester) hope to pass an amendment that would, according to The Daily News, "add language that requires juries to consider the actions of workers in weighing injury lawsuits" for the first time.

Naturally, the hyperbole on both sides of the debate has reached critical mass, with supporters of the law arguing that it effectively guarantees the rights and safety of construction workers and opponents claiming that undeserved settlement payouts are bleeding whole businesses (and taxpayers) dry. Indeed, Lou Coletti, head of the Building Trades Employers Association and an opponent of the original Scaffold Law says that leaving the law unchanged "is going to destroy the construction industry," which seems like a little bit of a stretch, considering the law has been on the books since the nineteenth-century.

A group of developers and contractors are pushing for a vote by June 20, when the Legislature adjourns.

What are your thoughts on the Scaffold Law? Let us know in the comments.
· 'Change in construction Scaffold Law puts more burden on workers' [NYDN]