New York Lawmakers Again Vote to Update Wrongful Death Statute in Way Doctors Say Would Increase Damages, Harm Safety Net Care

New York lawmakers have again overwhelmingly passed a bill to overhaul the state’s 176-year-old wrongful death statute. A similar bill was vetoed by Gov. Kathy Hochul on Jan. 30 due to her concerns it could result in “significant costs for many sectors of our economy, particularly hospitals that are still recovering from the pandemic and struggling to stay afloat.”

The 2022 version of Assembly Bill A6698.1, or the Grieving Families Act, would have extended New York’s statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits from two years to three and a half, permitted surviving family members to collect noneconomic damages for the loss of affection and companionship, and opened the door for nontraditional family members to seek compensation. Under current law, compensable damages in wrongful death actions are limited to economic loss only. New York and Alabama are the only two states that currently restrict family members from seeking recovery for their emotional suffering by limiting recoverable damages to the deceased’s earning potential.

In an op-ed piece justifying her veto that was published by the New York Daily News, Hochul voiced concerns that the bill would result in skyrocketing health insurance premiums and would harm many sectors of the business and insurance communities with significant additional costs. She believed the legislation would have had devastating effects on the defense of pending suits, opened the floodgates to distant relatives filing lawsuits for damages in wrongful death actions and created causes of action where none existed before the proposed bill.

With Hochul’s objections in mind, the Grieving Families Act of 2023 specifically defines a “close family member” as a decedent’s spouse or domestic partner, children, foster children, stepchildren, step-grandchildren, parents, grandparents, stepparents, step-grandparents, siblings or any person standing “in loco parentis” to a decedent. Under the revised Act, it would be for the jury to determine if a “close family member” is entitled to recover based upon “the specific circumstances relating to the person’s relationship with the decedent.”

The revised bill defines which types of damages can be recovered via a wrongful death lawsuit, including reasonable funeral expenses of the decedent; reasonable medical expenses for medical care incident to the injury causing death; grief or anguish caused by the decedent’s death; loss of love, society, protection, comfort, companionship and consortium relating to the decedent’s death; pecuniary injuries, including loss of services, support, or loss or diminishment of inheritance resulting from the decedent’s death; and loss of nurture, guidance, advice, training and education resulting from the decedent’s death.

The new bill also increases the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim from two years to three (a six-month reduction from the 2022 proposal) and clarifies that the legislation has a retroactive effect applying to all causes of action that accrued on or after July 1, 2018, regardless of filing date.

“In January, physicians, hospitals, businesses and municipalities all applauded Gov. Hochul for vetoing a bill that would have greatly expanded damages awardable in wrongful death actions and dramatically increased liability insurance costs for all New Yorkers,” said Paul Pipia, MD, Medical Society of the State of New York said in response to the updated legislation. “However, we are now alarmed that the New York State Legislature is again considering new legislation (A.6698/S.6636) that does not address the fundamental concerns raised by the governor in vetoing the bill regarding the threats to our healthcare system. The new bill would significantly increase the type of awardable damages in New York and threaten the stability of our already struggling healthcare safety net.”

Hochul has not indicated whether she will sign or veto the bill.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

You may also like

Legislative panel approves medical malpractice bill
Read more
Urgent-care centers: Illinois numbers grow as time-pressed families seek low-cost option to ERs
Read more
Global Center for Medical Innovation launches
Read more

Recent Posts

Washington Supreme Court Overturns Medical Liability Statute of Repose

U.S. District Court Sets Aside Record Noneconomic Damage Award

Curi Holdings, Constellation Complete Merger to Offer Scale the Modern Healthcare Delivery System Requires

Popular Posts

PIAA 2017: Current Trends & Future Concerns

2022 Medical Malpractice Insurance Rates: What the data tells us

Global Center for Medical Innovation launches

Start Your Custom Quote Process™

Request a free quote