A debate over the fate of a measure to expand New York's wrongful death statute is heating up as the measure heads to Gov. Kathy Hochul's desk for her consideration.
The measure would allow a person to bring a wrongful death claim based on emotional suffering and anguish, going beyond the current law's requirement to show only financial losses because of a loved one's death.
Opponents of the measure -- including doctors' organizations, business groups and local governments -- have pushed backed against the measure and urged Hochul to veto it. They argue the change would result in higher insurance premiums, a cost that would be passed onto patients as a result.
But the bill's final approval is backed by members of the influential Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus in the state Legislature. Chairwoman Michaelle Solages, a member of the state Assembly, pointed to the positive effect the expansion would have for grieving families, especially within low-income communities and communities of color.
"Today our society might recognize that a family member is more than a paycheck, but New York law does not," Solages wrote in a recent letter to Hochul. "And while New York led the way in 1847, we are an outlier now since just two other states, Alabama, and Delaware, deny survivors the ability to be compensated for grief and other noneconomic losses."
Solages also pushed back on the claims the measure would lead to higher premium costs for local governments, calling it a reflection of talking points from the insurance industry.
"Even more shockingly, some municipal officials are parroting the talking points of insurance company lobbyists, which we find to be a disgraceful dereliction of their duties," she wrote. "There are simply too many examples of people of color being wrongfully killed by those acting on behalf of local governments in New York to sit idly by while local officials argue that a piece of legislation would make as expensive for them to kill a Black man as it would be to kill a white man."
Solages added, "Honoring the memories of Daniel Prude, Eric Garner, and far too many other of our young brothers require us to speak out when local officials disgrace their public offices in this manner."
The bill was initially approved by the state Legislature in June and remains among the outstanding measures yet to land on the governor's desk for final approval or a veto. Hochul struck down a similar measure last year citing concerns over liability premiums.