At the conclusion of the NYS legislative session, the Senate and Assembly (S74a/A6770) passed the “Grieving Families Act” or the Wrongful Death Legislative Liability Expansion.
If enacted, the Grieving Families Act will:
This bill, anticipated to be addressed before the end of the year by the Governor, will have a substantial and negative impact on patients and healthcare professionals in New York State. If enacted, surgeons could see a projected 40% increase in medical liability premiums.
- Make it much easier to file wrongful death lawsuits by nearly doubling the statute of limitations and expanding the criteria for who can file wrongful death lawsuits.
- Leave the decision regarding awards to the jury, without a cap on what can be awarded.
- Result in substantial increases to medical malpractice premiums (and all other insurance premiums, as well).
Contrary to other states that have enacted such laws, this bill does not provide for a cap on the amount of damages that can be awarded in medical malpractice lawsuits. Importantly, this legislation would apply to not only healthcare but to cases across all sectors of the economy and on local governments and municipalities.
What’s Needed: A Veto and More Clarification
- The Bill language is too vague about who’s eligible to recover damages and the types of damages recoverable.
- The Bill also lacks important damages caps adopted by other states with similar laws.
- Governor Hochul’s veto offers the Legislature the opportunity to clarify ambiguous elements in the Bill and bring NY into alignment with other states that have applied necessary and reasonable restrictions to similar legislation.
- We need every surgeon to act through the Surgeons Voice and urge Governor Hochul to veto the Wrongful Death Bill (S74A). You can also call the Governor’s Office at (518) 474-8390
What the Bill Does
S.74A/A.6770 would amend the estates, powers and trusts law, to expand the damages available in wrongful death cases to include:
- Compensation for grief or anguish,
- The loss of love and companionship,
- Loss of services and support and
- The loss of nurture and guidance.
The legislation also expands with no limit the universe of individuals who may recover damages to include the undefined and unclear term “Close Family Members”.
The legislation nearly doubles the statute of limitations for wrongful death actions from 2 years to 3.5 years.
It should be noted that in the instance negligence results in death, current law does allow for the decedent’s estate to bring a lawsuit to recover economic damages and non-economic damages, suffered by the decedent before he or she died. Current law also allows family members of the decedent to bring a separate lawsuit to recover from the wrongdoer the family’s economic loss.