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Grieving Families Act Vetoed: Is this the End or Just the Beginning?

By: Anne Marie Garcia (Senior Associate) and Robert Elliot (Senior Partner)

As the deadline neared on January 30, 2023, Governor Hochul vetoed Senate Bill Number 74-A, which is also known as the Grieving Families Act. This bill has been under scrutiny from the plaintiff’s bar and defense bar with each side lobbying for and against the passage of this Bill.

The Bill, which was passed in June 2022 on the final night of the legislative session, would completely overhaul the legal landscape for wrongful death claims in this State. If passed, it would have expanded the right of recovery to a decedent’s surviving “close family”. However, “close family” was undefined. Recovery would have been expanded to include grief or anguish caused by the decedent’s death, any disorder caused by such grief or anguish, loss of love, society, protection, comfort, companionship and consortium resulting from the decedent’s death and loss of nurture, guidance, counsel, advise, training and education resulting from the decedent’s death. The proposed amendment to the current statute also provided grounds for recovery of psychiatric, physical damages and aggravation of pre-existing conditions by the grieving members. Lastly, the proposed Bill would have expanded the current two-year statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits to three-and-a-half years.

In her Veto Memo, Gov. Hochul noted that the Bill “would substantially change the nature of wrongful death claims in New York by expanding the class of persons entitled to see damages as well as the categories of recoverable damages and by extending the statute of limitations.” While Gov. Hochul acknowledged the need for reform of the State’s wrongful death statute, which was first enacted in 1847, Gov. Hochul cited concern of significant unintended consequences.

In fact, groups representing insurance, building, manufacturing, and health industries, amongst other, urged Gov. Hochul to veto the Bill as it could cause a burden on the State’s economy. In citing an actuarial analysis by Milliman, Inc. these groups noted that the Bill would increase medical profession liability costs by nearly 40%, and automobile and general liability insurance premiums by 12.6%.

Now, because Gov. Hochul has vetoed S74-A, the Legislature will need to re-draft and repass the Bill before it goes back to the Governor. What form this Bill will take is still a matter of discussion. We will continue to monitor the progression of this proposed Bill and provide updates as more information is provided.