E.J. McMahon’s recent column in the Poughkeepsie Journal champions reform of New York’s Scaffold Law, possibly the most litigation-friendly statute in the nation (“N.Y. leaders have means to improve business climate,” May 16).
His attention to the law highlights how New York’s dysfunctional civil justice system creates an enormous economic burden for the state’s small businesses, medical professionals, municipalities and nonprofits. The Scaffold Law has been pointed to as a hindrance to everything from school construction to Habitat for Humanity’s efforts following the devastation of Superstorm Sandy.
Legal reforms — like updating the antiquated Scaffold Law — translate to mandate relief for all aspects of our economy. Doctors, patients and public institutions are directly impacted by New York’s litigation friendly medical policies. A recent study showed that, in 2015, New York had the highest per capita medical liability payouts in the nation, a figure higher than the payouts of the entire Midwest. This could be partially remedied by aligning New York’s standards for expert testimony with those used in other states; a simple fix that would prevent “junk science” from entering our courtrooms.
Businesses and municipalities are similarly burdened by New York’s lack of “fair share liability.” Under current law, the deepest pocketed defendants can be on the hook for the negligence of other parties even if that company or individual has already paid their fair share. Fixing this obvious injustice, reforming the Scaffold Law and updating standards for expert evidence would send a clear signal that New York is truly “open for business.”
Government Affairs Specialist
Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York