Contractor Scaffold Law Liability

Much construction litigation arises from disputes over Scaffold Law liability. Simply, the Scaffold Law makes certain contractors and project owners liable for injuries to workers on construction sites. The Scaffold Law has been criticized for the burdens it imposes on contractors and owners and for allowing workers to collect even if they have ignored safety rules.

As New York construction attorneys can tell you, Scaffold Law liability is broad, but several exceptions save contractors from liability. Most importantly, a contractor must have control over the project site and the activity during which a worker was injured.[1] Otherwise, the contractor will not be held liable for worker injuries occurring on-site.

Courts decisions show several situations in which a contractor will not be liable for on-site injuries because it lacked control. Contractors are generally not liable for injuries to workers of other contractors hired separately by the owner (rather than subcontractors).[2] The only exception to that rule is where contractors are given power to supervise other contractors or the project site.[3] Thus, a contractor performing an entirely separate part of the project is not liable.[4] Moreover, a contractor that was not on-site on the day of the accident is also absolved from liability.[5]

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Scaffold Law construction litigation is too fact-oriented to give any strict guarantees. Nevertheless, exceptions such as those I describe here can protect some innocent contractors from the pitfalls of worker injury claims.

Lawyer John Caravella
John Caravella

The author, John Caravella Esq., is a construction attorney and formerly practicing project architect at The Law Office of John Caravella, P.C., representing architects, engineers, contractors, subcontractors, and owners in all phases of contract preparation, litigation, and arbitration across New York and Florida. He also serves as an arbitrator to the American Arbitration Association Construction Industry Panel. Mr. Caravella can be reached by email: or (631) 608-1346.

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[1] Marquez v. L & M Dev. Partners, Inc., 141 A.D.3d 694, 698–99, 35 N.Y.S.3d 700, 705–06 (2d Dep’t 2016); Barrios v. City of New York, 75 A.D.3d 517, 518, 905 N.Y.S.2d 255, 257 (2d Dep’t 2010).

[2] Barrios, 75 A.D.3d at 518, 905 N.Y.S.2d at 257.

[3] Id.

[4] Kilmetis v. Creative Pool & Spa, Inc., 74 A.D.3d 1289, 1290–91, 904 N.Y.S.2d 495, 497 (2d Dep’t 2010).

[5] Id.