Jacobs testifies before House committee, speaks out on Scaffold Law

Staff Reports Posted 15 April 2021 at 8:10 am

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Chris Jacobs (NY-27) testified on Wednesday afternoon in front of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in support of his legislation the Infrastructure Expansion Act.

He spoke against the Scaffold Law in New York State, which he said drives up construction costs by 8 to 10 percent.

New York’s Scaffold Law imposes an absolute liability standard for all gravity-related injuries on construction projects. New York is the only state with such a law. In February, Jacobs reintroduced his legislation, the Infrastructure Expansion Act (H.R. 1300), that would protect New Yorkers from high construction costs by pre-empting the Scaffold Law on any project receiving federal funding – instead implementing a standard of comparative negligence for these projects.

“Absolute liability under the Scaffold Law means employers and property owners are fully liable for worksite accidents, regardless of the contributing fault of the worker,” Jacobs testified. “To understand the injustice of this law, take for example that courts have ruled repeatedly that the intoxication of an employee is not a defense for an employer under the statute. Contrast this with the liability standard of comparative negligence – the standard in every other state – which allows for a reasonable determination of fault between two parties.”

Jacobs wants to exempt federally funded projects from the Scaffold Law and instead place them on a standard of comparative negligence.

“For the sake of our roads, our bridges, our schools, our railroads, our homes and all New Yorkers, the Scaffold Law must be reformed,” Jacobs said.