On June 2, 2022, the New York State legislature passed the “Grieving Families Act,” which would have made sweeping changes to New York State’s 175-year-old wrongful death statute (§5-4.1 of New York’s Estate, Powers and Trusts Law) by dramatically expanding the beneficiaries, categories of damages, and the statute of limitations. The notable changes provided for in the Act included:
- Extending the Statute of Limitations for a wrongful death action from two years to three years, six months;
- Permitting recovery of damages for emotional loss when a tortfeasor is found liable for causing a death; and
- Amending EPTL section 5-4.4 to permit recovery by anyone deemed by the factfinder to have a “close” relationship with the deceased.
This Bill, if signed into law, would have taken effect immediately, so as to apply to all pending actions and actions commenced on or after the passage date. Governor Hochul has vetoed this Bill, as she declined to sign it into law by the January 31, 2023, deadline. In an op-ed piece published in the New York Daily News, Governor Hochul addressed the flaws in the Bill while explaining her decision not to sign the Bill into law. In the op-ed, Governor Hochul recognized the stress the Bill’s passage would have placed on the economy, which undoubtedly would have driven up already-high insurance premiums and added significant costs for many sectors of our economy.
This is likely not the last we will hear on the topic, as Governor Hochul has proposed changes to the Bill, suggesting to the Legislature that if they amended the legislation she would sign into a law a version that gives parents of children who have tragically died in accidents the opportunity to seek meaningful accountability for their loss. Moreover, as the vetoed Bill passed both Houses of the Legislature by large margins, and proponents of the Bill in the Legislature have already voiced their grievances with Governor Hochul’s actions and affirmed that they will again pass the Bill, we expect to see a draft version of the revised Bill in the near future.