On December 28, 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul was presented with S74A, the proposed bill entitled Grieving Families Act. The Act’s stated purpose is to “permit the families of wrongful death victims to recover compensation for their emotional anguish.” Under the current law, recovery is limited to pecuniary injuries stemming from the decedent’s death to the persons for whose benefit the action is brought, namely, the decedent’s distributes.
If the Grieving Families Act is signed into law, it would amend, and potentially repeal significant aspects of, EPTL Sections 5-4.1 and5-4.3¬--5-4.6, which currently govern wrongful death cases. Specifically, the Act would extend the time to file a wrongful death action from two years to three years and six months from the date of the decedent’s death. Additionally it would allow for family members to receive compensation for non-economic losses if a tortfeasor is found liable for causing a death and not just pecuniary losses. The Act specifically authorizes recovery for “grief or anguish caused by the decedent’s death, and for any disorder caused by such grief or anguish,” as well as “loss of love, society, protection, comfort, companionship and consortium,” none of which are compensable items of damages under the current law. Finally, the Act defines “close family members” to include spouses or domestic partners, children, parents, grandparents, step-parents, and siblings, but leaves it to the finder of fact to determine which persons are close family members of the decedent, “based upon the specific circumstances relating to the person’s relationship with the decedent.”
The New York State Trial Lawyers Association (NYSTLA) is pushing Governor Hochul to sign the proposed Bill. However, opponents of the Grieving Families Act include insurance companies, as the Act is much more favorable to plaintiffs and can lead to insurance companies and hospitals paying plaintiffs significantly more in damages than under the current law.
We will provide updates regarding the Grieving Families Act as they appear.
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