New York Governor Vetoes Bill to Expand Wrongful Death Lawsuit Benefits

Governor Hochul claims the wrongful death lawsuit benefits bill needs more analysis, despite the bill passing the state legislature months ago.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul has vetoed a bill that would have expanded wrongful death lawsuit benefits in her state, despite the approval of the state legislature.

Last Summer, the New York State Legislature passed the Grieving Families Act, which would have allowed plaintiffs filing wrongful death lawsuits to pursue damages for emotional loss, extended the statute of limitations on filing such claims, and expanded the list of eligible family members who could bring a claim.

The bill was heavily supported by state Democrats, but on Monday, Governor Hochul vetoed the measure, saying the bill was overly broad and that its ramifications were not fully understood.

Governor Hochul released a statement this week regarding the veto, acknowledging that the current state laws, which base the value of life on earnings and salary, undervalues claims and “reinforces historic patterns of structural inequity and racism.” However, she indicated that the New York wrongful death framework should be revisited in a “methodical, smart way,” which would give law makers more time to look at data and grapple with the complex issues.

“Experts have highlighted concerns that the unintended consequences of this far-reaching, expansive legislation would be significant. It is reasonable to think that the legislation as drafted will drive up already-high health insurance premiums, adding significant costs for many sectors of our economy, particularly hospitals that are still recovering from the pandemic and struggling to stay afloat — including public hospitals that serve disadvantaged communities,” the Governor said. “This is a question that would benefit from careful analysis before, not after, passing sweeping legislation.”

Advocates of the law say 47 states already have provisions that allow consideration of lost relationships. In addition, 20 states also allow claims for grief and mental anguish in wrongful death lawsuits. They say Governor Hochul’s counteroffers provided little room for negotiations usually associated with such bills.

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In a press release issued after the veto was announced, Assembly Member Helene Weinstein and state Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal blasted the decision, saying Governor Hochul proposed a half-baked compromise which they say did not take the bill or its sponsors seriously.

“The Governor now claims that she wants more analysis of the Grieving Families Act. But since the State Legislature passed the bill in June, the Governor had over seven months to review it,” they wrote. “With the resources of the entire state government at her disposal, it’s inexplicable the Governor failed to review the bill during this seven-month period, and waited until the eleventh hour to raise the need for further statistical analysis, which would seem to be a tactic to gut the legislation or delay its implementation indefinitely.”

It is unclear whether the state legislature will try to overturn the governor’s veto, which requires two-thirds of the state legislature. However, the bill passed originally by a wide margin with bipartisan support.


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