New York State Legislature Passes Bill That Will Expand Wrongful Death Damages
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New York State Legislature Passes Bill That Will Expand Wrongful Death Damages

Key Takeaways:

  • A bill known as the Grieving Families Act has been passed by both chambers of the New York legislature and is awaiting Gov. Kathy Hochul’s signature. If signed into law it will become effective immediately.

  • The law will expand compensable damages to include loss of affection and companionship, and will permit “close family members” to recover emotional damages.

  • The law will also extend the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim from 2 years to 3 1/2 years.

  • As currently drafted, if signed into law the statute will impact all pending cases.

The New York State Assembly and the New York State Senate have passed a bill known as the Grieving Families Act. It is now awaiting Gov. Kathy Hochul’s signature. If signed into law it will be the first update to New York’s wrongful death statute in more than 150 years. Full language of the statute is available here.

The bill adds grief and anguish to the types of damages that family members can recover in a wrongful death case, expands the class of people who can recover those claims, and also extends the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim from 2 years to 3 1/2 years.

Businesses and healthcare facilities are concerned that the statute will increase litigation costs, settlement demands, and verdicts in New York. However, supporters of the legislation claim the existing wrongful death statute is antiquated and devalues the lives of children, seniors, and others.

Many states do allow for damages in a wrongful death claim for the loss of a relationship with a loved one; 20 states reportedly allow damages for claims of grief and mental anguish resulting from a wrongful death.

At this point, it is unclear if Gov. Hochul will sign or veto the bill. Given the implications for businesses and healthcare facilities, we will continue to monitor and provide updates on this issue.

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