As we anticipated, the New York State Legislature revised the previously proposed legislation and on June 2, 2022, the Grieving Families Act S6636/A6698 passed in the New York State Senate and is again awaiting Governor Kathy Hochul’s consideration. On January 30, 2023, Governor Hochul vetoed the previous version of the Grieving Families Act which would have overhauled New York’s 175-year-old Wrongful Death Statute. You can read more about the previous version of the bill in GRSLBG&B’s Article, New York Governor Hochul Vetoes Grieving Families Act…For Now
Currently, the Wrongful Death Statute limits wrongful death claims to immediate family members, including surviving spouses and children. A wrongful death lawsuit must be commenced within two years after the decedent’s death. If damages are awarded, the immediate family receives compensation for pecuniary injuries resulting from the decedent’s death. The damages awarded may also include recoverable damages such as reasonable expenses for medical aid and funeral expenses. However, the updated Grieving Family Act intends to increase the period for filing a claim to three years after the decedent’s death. The damages awarded would be expanded to include funeral expenses, medical care related to the injury causing death, grief, emotional anguish, loss of support/protection, loss of companionship, and loss of consortium caused by the death of a family member.
The revised Grieving Family Act, like its predecessor, intends to be more inclusive by expanding the class of plaintiffs. Under S6636/A6698 the potential class of plaintiffs would be expanded to include the decedent’s surviving “close” family members, specifically limited to decedent’s spouse or domestic partner, foster-children, step-children, step-grandchildren, parents, grandparents, step-parents, step-grandparents, siblings or any person standing in loco parentis to the decedent. The finder of fact will be responsible for determining which persons qualify as close family members of the deceased based on the specific circumstances relating to the person’s relationship with the deceased.
If the updated Grieving Family Act is passed by Governor Hochul it will take effect immediately and apply to all causes of action that accrue on or after July 1, 2018, regardless of when it was filed. GRSLBG&B will continue to monitor the status of any further legislation in this area; however, if the Act is signed into law, the effect would be an increased number of potential claimants, the expanded nature of available damages, as well as the increased timeframe in which claimants can file wrongful death lawsuits.
Russ M. Patane, Esq. is the Shareholder in Charge of GRSLBG&B’s New York Office and Litigation Department. He defends a wide variety of clients in various civil actions brought forth in New Jersey and New York State and Federal Courts. Russ can be reached at RPatane@grsl.com.
Angela L. Peña, Esq. is an Associate in GRSLBG&B’s Litigation Department. She defends a wide variety of clients in New York State Courts. Angela can be reached at APena@grsl.com.