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January 2023

New York Governor Vetoes Grieving Families Act

Last night, New York Governor Kathy Hochul issued a final veto of the Grieving Families Act (“Act”) on the heels of efforts to propose and expand amendments to New York’s wrongful death statute. Governor Hochul’s concerns, expressed in an Op-Ed published by the New York Daily News, noted that the bill “would dramatically expand beneficiaries, categories of damages, and the statute of limitations” and drive up insurance premiums. In addition, the Governor noted that the bill passed at the very end of the legislative session was approved in committee and voted on by both the Assembly and Senate, in full, on the very same day, without “a serious evaluation of the impact of these massive changes on the economy, small businesses, individuals, and the state’s complex health care system.”

The Act sought to change New York’s wrongful death statute, which was enacted in 1847. The Act sought to expand the right of recovery in wrongful death lawsuits in multiple ways, including but not limited to the following:

  1.  Statute of Limitations:  The bill would have expanded the statute of limitations for wrongful death suits from two to three and a half years.  
  2.  Emotional Damages:  The bill would have allowed for damages such as “grief or anguish,” the “loss of love, society, protection, comfort….” as well as the “loss of nurture, guidance, counsel….” resulting from the death, which would greatly expand the damages currently available for economic damages such as loss of wages.
  3.  Who Can Recover:  The bill would have allowed anyone deemed by the court to be a “surviving family member” to file a wrongful death suit. The lack of an objective standard opens the door to any number of people who could bring this type of lawsuit.

The proposed bill would not have only impacted future wrongful death lawsuits but would also apply retroactively to any pending wrongful death suits. In short, the proposed legislation would have drastically altered the landscape for wrongful death lawsuits in the State of New York.

While New York defendants can breathe a momentary sigh of relief under the blanket of protection from Governor Hochul’s veto last night, it is likely only a matter of time before revised proposed legislation is submitted to the New York Senate and Assembly for approval. 

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