Earlier this year, state lawmakers in Albany approved a bill meant to expand New York's 174-year-old wrongful death statute to include emotional anguish.
The measure was meant to cover more families and loved ones so they can recover damages and be financially sound in the wake of a tragedy. But coalition of business organizations and local governments groups are warning the measure if given final approval by Gov. Kathy Hochul could add costs for taxpayers and the private sector.
The groups, along with the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, is launching an ad on Thursday to make a final push against the measure set to head to the governor's desk. A full page ad in opposition to the bill is set to run in The Daily News on Thursday.
“Our local governments, doctors and hospitals, and our friends and neighbors can't afford one more cost hike in these difficult economic times," said Tom Stebbins, the executive director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance. “If signed into law, this bill will drain municipal budgets, increase household expenses as we battle record inflation, and devastate New York’s already strained healthcare system, disproportionately harming the medical professionals and hospitals that serve our communities.”
Opponents of the measure point to its potential cost on general liability and personal auto insurance bills reaching as much as $2 billion. For medical professionals, the liability insurance costs could mean a 45% increase.
“Local governments in New York already contend with a uniquely difficult liability environment and are roped into a disproportionate number of lawsuits, even when they have little or no connection to the underlying matter. Any increase in liability costs for the Empire State’s cities, villages, counties and towns will divert taxpayer funds away from critical community services and reduce our ability to invest in the future," said Peter Baynes, the executive director of the New York Conference of Mayors. "There should be reform across the board – before expanding liability, let’s fix the laws that make New York’s civil justice system the country's most expensive."
Supporters of the measure, which include the powerful New York Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus, have contended the proposal is meant to update New York's long-standing statute that has not seen significant changes in decades.
And they point to states like Arkansas, Florida and Michigan having wrongful death laws that cover emotional anguish.