The Real Deal New York

Corey Johnson’s MTA reform plan targets controversial Scaffold Law

Plan criticizes the law for driving up construction insurance costs
March 11, 2019 09:30AM

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson under a sidewalk shed (Credit: I’m Just Walkin’ and Getty Images)

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s plan to reform the MTA would include changing the city’s Scaffold Law, which places 100 percent of the liability on owners and contractors for workplace injuries.

Johnson’s plan says the law increases costs to cover negligence lawsuits, claiming that the cost of insuring a New York construction project is 10 times higher than insuring construction projects in other states, according to the New York Post.

Other states use a “comparative negligence standard” to determine whether injuries are the fault of workers or contractors, and Johnson’s plan calls on New York to adopt a similar standard.

The law has faced criticism before, but efforts to revise it at the state level have not gone anywhere thanks to opposition from trial lawyers and construction trade unions, along with their allies in the legislature.

Johnson’s MTA plan calls on the city to run subway and bus services, and it says that the Scaffold Law has caused the agency’s insurance costs to rise to “7 percent of contracted construction value.”

The plan says that, because of this, construction insurance companies “have either left New York altogether, reducing competition and increasing prices, or have remained while increasing premiums, which are passed on to all contracting entities.” [NYP] – Eddie Small