New York’s Grieving Families Act May See First Update In Over 100 Years

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The current wrongful death statute in New York, which has been in place since 1847, may get a revamp in the coming months. Senate Bill S74A, also known as the Grieving Families Act (“the Act”) is currently awaiting Governor Kathy Hochul’s signature. Full language of the statute is available here.

If signed, the Act will expand compensable damages in wrongful death actions to include emotional losses such as grief and anguish to the types of damages that family members would be entitled to recover. Currently, compensable damages in these types of actions are limited to pecuniary loss only, such as pre-death medical expenses, funeral expenses and loss of financial support.

Additionally, the definition of “family member” under the Act will expand to include a greater spectrum of people affected by such deaths including spouses, domestic partners, children, parents, grandparents, stepparents and siblings as those who are entitled to recover damages.

Finally, the Act would extend the current statute of limitations for bringing a wrongful death claim from two years to three and a half years. The Act would also apply retroactively to pending cases.

While we await the signing of the Act, questions remain as to the impact on the potential changes to asbestos litigation. Opponents of the Act argue increased costs of litigation, increased length of time to litigate cases and duplicative remedies since survivorship cause of action for the decedent’s pain and suffering already provide a legal remedy to obtain non-economic compensation for the loss of a loved one.  Proponents of the Act believe that the updates are necessary to justly compensate all those who suffer from such wrongful deaths.

If the Act is signed, asbestos litigation in New York will certainly be impacted. Though the full impact remains to be seen.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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