New York lawmakers will make another attempt to expand New York's wrongful death law to make it easier to recover claims and damages when a loved one dies, introducing a pared down version of the proopsal vetoed earlier this year by Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Proposed this week by state Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal and Assemblymember Helene Weinstein, the new legislation was meant to address issues raised by Hochul's veto amid opposition from business organizations and local government groups over the potential impact the measure would have on insurance rates.
The intent of the measure, known by supporters as the Grieving Families Act, would cover emotional anguish and allow for a broader set of people to bring claims in wrongful death cases.
The new bill clarifies when the provision would retroactively take effect, limit damages that can be recovered, created a shorter statute of limitations and provide a clearer definition of who is eligible to bring wrongful death claims.
Lawmakers in New York, more broadly, still want to update the state's wrongful death law, calling it badly out of date compared to other areas of the country.
“New York is out of step with 47 other states’ wrongful death laws. We’ve denied countless family members the proper consideration for their loved ones since the current statute considers only economic loss," Hoylman-Sigal said. "Courts are forced to discount the value of lives in wrongful death actions for those who aren’t breadwinners for their families, resulting in a disproportionate negative impact on people of color, women, children, seniors and New Yorkers with disabilities. We’ve responded to the governor’s concerns and will pass the Act again this session.”
But the measure will still need to win over supporters outside of the Legislature. The Lawsuit Reform Alliance in a statement said concerns remain over the bill and its effect on insurance costs on a wide swath of New Yorkers.
"We remain concerned that the legislature has done no fiscal impact analysis of this bill,” said Tom Stebbins, the executive director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York. “The conference of mayors, association of counties, and the NYS Budget Office have all pointed out the impacts of expanding wrongful death liability on taxpayers. Actuarial analysis shows that even with the proposed amendments our heroes in healthcare can expect a dramatic increase in their liability insurance."