November 11, 2011 New Study Highlights the Cost of Lawsuits on New York’s Municipalities – Fri, 11 Nov 2011 A new report from the Program on Local and Intergovernmental Studies at the University at Albany details the cost of lawsuits on municipalities across New York State, finding that the disparity among counties is fairly widespread. Researchers tracked five years of budget data to assess the impact of lawsuits on municipalities.
“New York is undergoing an unprecedented, close examination of government spending and we hope this report will show policymakers the cost of lawsuits on New York’s municipalities,” said Sydney Creswell, senior researcher at the University at Albany. “With every line item under scrutiny, there is no reason these costs should be overlooked.”
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- November 04, 2011 Rush of ‘Scaffold Law’ Lawsuits Makes Case For Necessary Reforms
Posted: Tue, 01 Nov 2011 16:03:32 +0000
This morning, the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York announced its participation in the Let New York Work Coalition, a broad based group composed of small and large businesses, farmers, school superintendents, elected officials, realtors, school boards, and taxpayers. This diverse group has joined together to advocate for meaningful mandate relief. The coalition strongly supports six measures, including making the pension system more affordable, redefining compulsory arbitration, reducing the costs of construction, freezing step increases, establishing minimum health insurance contribution levels for employees, and limiting new unfunded mandates. All of these measures would reduce the financial burden on municipalities and taxpayers, stimulate the economy, and promote job creation.
As part of the plan to reduce construction costs, the coalition is advocating for common sense reform to the “Scaffold Law.” Under this law, contractors, employers and property owners are held absolutely liable for “elevation related injuries”. This means when an injured worker sues, the contractor, employer, or owner is automatically 100% liable, even if the injured worker was entirely at fault. The coalition is advocating for a modest reform – if the worker was injured because they were intoxicated, violating safety standards, or committing a criminal act, the employer or property owner who hired them is allowed to defend themselves in court.
Says Brian Sampson, Executive Director of the advocacy group Unshackle Upstate,
“The Scaffold Law is another clear example of why New York ranks 50th, dead last, in business tax climate. The net cause of this law is that New York State has abandoned fairness standard that allows people to defend themselves against accusations and innuendo. New York must take decisive action to reform this antiquated law. Failure to reform the absolute liability standard will continue to result in increased spending of tax dollars paying for claims rather than public improvements and will stifle the progress of private projects.”
Reforming the Scaffold Law would create jobs, improve workplace safety, and strengthen New York’s economy, at no cost to taxpayers. This reform would hold negligent workers accountable for their own actions, without infringing on the rights of those who are truly injured to file a lawsuit or collect workers’ compensation.
The Let New York Work Coalition held a press conference this morning to announce more details about their efforts. This media coverage of the coalition will increase awareness of these issues and emphasize the need for change.
Posted: Mon, 31 Oct 2011 – By–Scott Hobson
At the October 27th meeting of the Medicaid Redesign Team, Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo, the head of New York City’s Law Department, offered a list of twelve reforms to fix New York’s medical malpractice system and reduce costs to the Medicaid program.
Mr. Cardozo has been the City’s top lawyer for nearly ten years. Prior to that, he served as president of the New York City Bar Association and was a partner at the law firm of Proskauer Rose. To say that he is familiar with the problems of our civil justice system would be a considerable understatement.
Tort reform, Cardozo emphasized, is necessary to reign in the rising cost of medical malpractice, citing several deficiencies in the system that incentivized the filing of non-meritorious suits. Last year, New York City paid out over half a billion dollars in lawsuits, of which $143 million went to medical malpractice cases. Statewide, medical liability insurance costs are the highest in the Nation, nearly double that of the next highest state.
One such reform put forward was a limitation on the subjective non-economic “pain and suffering” component of a jury award. These awards, according to Cardozo, “are highly subjective, and often bear no relation to reality.” A limitation on non-economic awards would reduce the number of non-meritorious lawsuits, while preserving a victim’s ability to collect an unlimited amount for current and future expenses such as medical care, lost wages, and adaptive technology. Twenty-two states, including California, Florida, and Texas have enacted similar limits, and the results have been dramatic. In Texas, the enactment of a $250,000 limitation on non-economic damages resulted in $1.4 billion in increased revenues to the state. In California, medical liability insurance losses are lower than New York by a factor of four.
In addition to other reforms, Cardozo advocated for the statewide expansion of the Judge Directed Negotiation Program currently in place in New York City, as well as requiring a certificate of merit signed by a physician to proceed with a lawsuit. Both these reforms, he emphasized, would reduce the number of non-meritorious lawsuits, reducing costs and allowing those with legitimate claims to receive compensation sooner. Another suggested reform would require plaintiffs to disclose the identity of their witnesses early on in the process, ending the practice of “trial by ambush.” “Litigation,” he said, “is not meant to be a game – it is meant to be a presentation of the facts.”
Cardozo went on to emphasize that the system, as a whole, needed to be reformed. “I suggest that the goals of fairly compensating victims are not being met.” We couldn’t agree more.
Written by Rob Lillpopp on September 29, 2011 – 5:07 am
A new coalition of New York employers, farmers and others has joined together to make a major push to reform New York’s century-old “Scaffold Law” to help promote economic growth and recovery throughout New York.
Under New York’s Scaffold Law, contractors, employers and property owners are held absolutely liable for “elevation related injuries.” When an injured worker sues, the contractor, employer, or owner is automatically liable even if they weren’t at fault.
New York remains the only state in the nation where a worker is not held responsible for his or her own negligence. Illinois was the last to reform the law, in 1995, and the effect was immediate: 50,000 new jobs and a sharp decrease in workplace injuries. By reforming the law, workplace safety will be improved.
“New York State’s elected officials must confront the fact that simply doing business here is more expensive than in almost every other state. The Scaffold Law is ‘Exhibit A’ of our outdated and biased legal system,” said Tom Stebbins, executive director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY). “Reforming the Scaffold Law will be a first step to getting our economy moving again and sending a message that much-needed change has reached New York State.”
The tremendous costs of the Scaffold Law are passed along to all New Yorkers. Since there is virtually no defense against a million-dollar Scaffold Law suit, the cost of general liability insurance in New York is extremely high, driving up costs for all construction projects, including taxpayer-funded projects like infrastructure improvements and school construction. This has a significant impact on New York: construction costs go up, employers hire fewer workers (or must lay off those they do have) and the economy suffers.
The new Scaffold Law Reform coalition is supporting Assembly Bill 2835 (D- Morelle), which would give New York property owners, business owners, contractors and municipalities the chance to defend themselves in court when an injury occurs due to negligence. The bill would not prevent injured workers from suing their employers or prevent injured workers from receiving workers’ compensation benefits.
The coalition has launched a new website – www.scaffoldlaw.org – to educate New Yorkers about the issue and to encourage grassroots supporters to contact their legislators to express their support for reform.
“The Scaffold Law is more than 100 years old. A lot has changed in those years to help improve working conditions, including the development of OSHA standards and workers’ compensation. We need to modify this antiquated law which now serves as nothing more than an increase to the cost of doing business in New York and a deterrent to the creation of new jobs. In the end, every New Yorker pays the price,” said Stebbins.
# # #
Members of the Scaffold Law Reform Coalition include:
• Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York
• Associated General Contractors of New York State
• Business Council of New York State
• New York Farm Bureau
• National Federation of Independent Business
• Unshackle Upstate
• The New York State Builders Association
Written by Sonia Lindell on October 17, 2011 – 6:50 am
The following is the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York’s response to a piece in the Huffington Post that states the Martin Act is the key to solving “Occupy Wall Street”:
“New York Assemblyman Rory Lancman and New York State Senator Daniel Squadron have been quoted in recent media reports advocating that several existing proposals currently in front of New York legislators could be used to achieve the goals of “Occupy Wall Street” protestors.
The most troubling of their proposals is also the most innocuous sounding one – the “Institutional Investor Recovery Act.” This piece of legislation, according to the two legislators would “unleash the power of the Martin Act” by giving private attorneys the same powers as the Attorney General to prosecute securities fraud.
The Martin Act is indisputably the strongest securities fraud statute in the nation and is unique to the State of New York. Under the Martin Act, the Attorney General is empowered to file lawsuits against any corporation or associated party for absolutely any act or omission which could be construed to “mislead” investors, no matter how insignificant. Moreover, the Attorney General is not required to prove that any investors actually relied on the allegedly misleading information or suffered damages.”
To read more click here.
The Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY) is a broad based coalition of hardworking New York business leaders, professionals and consumers who are committed to changing New York’s burdensome and expensive legal system to help create more jobs and energize our State’s economy.
New York’s unbalanced legal system has contributed to the enormously high property tax burden for homeowners and businesses in New York, reduced access to health care, and driven jobs out of the state.
Our elected officials need to seriously address these issues in order to revive our economy and bring NY back to the Empire State!
Working media looking to learn more about LRANY, contact our media representative, Jon Pierce, at 518-427-1186 or via email.
We need your help to make these critical reforms happen in New York!