The sponsor of legislation that would significantly expand New York's wrongful death statute said he is open to compromising with the governor's office to make sure it finally becomes a law.
The flexibility of state Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal, D-Manhattan, does appear to have limits though. The Legislature has passed what advocates call the "Grieving Families Act" with bipartisan support each of the last two sessions.
However, Gov. Kathy Hochul vetoed the first iteration in January, citing, among other things, unintended negative impacts on the economy, small businesses and the state's health care system. The bill, which will go to Hochul again, would make many changes to the current statute, opening claims to potential victims, including allowing for emotional damages.
Hoylman-Sigal told Capital Tonight's Kate Lisa although the Legislature revised the bill last session in response to the veto, he believed the governor may still have some of the same concerns.
"I know this is an uphill struggle for us that support the bill because there is an existing veto but I'm hopeful that the governor will see the wisdom in New York joining the 47 other states that have updated their wrongful death statutes," he said.
One thing the sponsor said is not currently "on the table" is an exemption for medical malpractice claims. That exemption was part of a last-minute compromise proposed by the governor and rejected by lawmakers the last time around, prior to her veto.
The governor's office said only that she "is reviewing the legislation." It has not yet been delivered to her desk.
"There are cases ranging from the limousine crash in Scoharie to the massacre at the Tops supermarket in Buffalo where if we pass the Grieving Families Act, we would not only provide justice to these family members but we would also bring accountability to the liable parties, whether it's a hospital, a gun manufacturer, a limousine company that should have followed the law to protect its passengers. All of these cases would be impacted if the governor signs the Grieving Families Act," Hoylman-Sigal said.
The current legislation has not been updated in roughly 175 years. The state senator said it is a civil rights issue as the current statute which allows courts only to consider monetary damages in wrongful death claims, discriminates against low-income communities, people of color, individuals with disabilities, the elderly and young.