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New York Governor Kathy Hochul vetoed the Grieving Families Act this week. The bill expanded who could recover for the wrongful death of a family member, the type of damages that could be awarded to those individuals, and the time to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. The bill passed the Senate and Assembly in June 2022 requiring only Governor Hochul’s signature to become law. The deadline was set to expire on Tuesday, January 31st at midnight. Governor Hochul vetoed the bill on Monday.
Currently in New York, only certain family members, such as a spouse or parent, can recover damages from a tortfeasor or wrongdoer who is found responsible for the wrongful death of a victim. The type of recovery is limited to pecuniary (i.e., relating to money) damages. The Grieving Families Act would have permitted “surviving close family members” (like grandparents, siblings, or domestic partners) to recover compensation for their emotional anguish, loss of companionship, and funeral expenses. The bill would have also extended the time limit to bring a wrongful death lawsuit to three years and six months (currently two years). Senate Bill S74A.
Governor Hochul reasoned that the bill as written would increase health insurance premiums, escalate healthcare costs, and strain hospitals that are already struggling financially post-pandemic. Before vetoing the bill, the governor attempted a compromise asking lawmakers to approve an amendment that would exclude medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuits. They declined.
Only time will tell what happens next with tort reform in New York, but for now, the 175-year-old law remains.