Sliding-scale proposal for civil damages resulting from construction fatalities, injuries draws ire of trades

New York City Council proposal puts limits on penalties for safety violations leading to death, serious injury.

January 10, 2018 |

A New York City Council proposal that would mandate a sliding-scale system be used when awarding civil damages for construction-related injuries or fatalities has drawn fire from two prominent unions.

The measure would limit city penalties to $500,000 for companies and $150,000 for individuals when safety violations result in serious injury or death. The Building Trades Employers' Association and the General Contractors Association slammed the proposal, saying that ability to pay should not be a consideration when upholding safety regulations and determining damages.

In civil cases related to construction injuries and deaths, judges would have to consider the degree of injury, the defendant's violation history, the extent of willfulness or negligence, and the defendant's ability to pay before making a monetary award. The bill seems designed to prevent companies from being penalized so heavily that they have to go out of business.

One union representative said that the bill sends a message that workers’ lives at larger, more established companies are more valuable than workers’ lives at smaller, less established firms.

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