Living in New York, as we all know, has its financial challenges.  We’ve been pretty clear that a business tax climate that ranks 50th in the US is not acceptable and neither are property taxes that are 78% above the national average.  We’ve taken steps over the past few months to fix both…remember that Property Tax Cap we talked so much about?  But there is another hidden cost driver that we may not see until it is too late.  That would be the impact of lawsuits due to our tort system…or lack thereof.

According to the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (in full disclosure, I am a Board Member)  www.lawsuitreform.org,  “Unfortunately for average New Yorkers, the powerful lawyer lobby has helped institute one of the nation’s worst legal systems in our state, contributing enormously to our high property taxes, reduced access to health care and increasing costs of doing business here.  The failure of our elected officials to address these issues has made the revitalization of New York’s economy even more difficult.”  So what are some bad laws that add to our burden?  Consider these:

  • New York is the only state with a law (Labor Law 240/241) that holds an owner responsible for “gravity related accidents” even if the worker completely ignored the safety procedure.  As a result, it is estimated that a new home can cost as much as $10,000 more than a comparable house in a neighboring state simple because of General Liability Insurance rates in New York
  • New York is one of only two states that allows a trespasser to sue a property owner even though the “injured” person is on the land or in the building illegally
  • And let’s not forget medical malpractice cases and the ambulance chasing attorney’s they keep employed

You can read more about the issues in this Op-Ed from Tom Stebbins.  And you can read the response from the Trial Attorney’s here.  But at the end of the day one thing is clear:  in a litigious world New York is at the top of another list where we would much prefer to be on the bottom.  We’ve got issues to resolve…and we will.