NY Gov. Hochul’s veto of Grieving Families Act leaves frustrated lawmakers looking ahead


Top Democratic lawmakers in New York said they will again look to change New York’s wrongful death law this year after Gov. Kathy Hochul vetoed a bill late Monday that would have made it far easier for grieving families to seek compensation.

Hochul, a Democrat facing a Monday deadline to act, vetoed the measure just before midnight, accusing lawmakers of failing to take the potentially far-reaching consequences of the bill into account, such as a boost in insurance rates and confusion in the legal system.

But lawmakers sid that’s not fair. The bill had been around in various forms for more than two decades, and it passed in June by a wide, bipartisan margin.

For now, New York is left with one of the most restrictive statutes in the country, preventing families from suing for damages from their pain and suffering caused by a wrongful death.

“Obviously, we passed it. A bipartisan supermajority of the Legislature knows how important this is,” state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) told reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday. “We were hoping, obviously, that we would have it signed, but we will continue to look at it.”

The Grieving Families Act, as the bill is known, would have made broad changes to the state’s wrongful death statute, which was enacted in 1847 and has largely remained intact since.

Since the bill was passed by last year’s Legislature, the current Legislature cannot vote to overturn Hochul’s veto. But lawmakers could choose to pass the bill again to try to force Hochul’s hand, something Stewart-Cousins didn’t rule out on Tuesday.

The current law allows beneficiaries to seek only “pecuniary” damages — economic costs like lost wages and earning potential — in wrongful death cases. That has particularly hamstrung parents of small children killed in such cases, who had no wages to lose.

Under the vetoed bill, New York would have changed the law to allow the deceased’s families to seek a wide variety of damages, including for emotional costs such as grief and anguish and loss of companionship resulting from a wrongful death.

The bill also would have expanded the pool of family members who could file a wrongful death claim to include any “surviving close family members,” including but not limited to spouses, domestic partners, parents, grandparents, stepparents, siblings and others allowed by the court. And it would have lengthened the statute of limitations for filing a case from two years to three-and-a-half years, or up to four years for those who die of 9/11-related conditions.

In her veto message, Hochul said the bill as written would have gone too far in expanding the pool of family members who can sue, saying it would have forced courts to “grapple with new competing claims.”

“Moreover, it is reasonable to expect that the bill as drafted, would increase already-high insurance burdens on families and small businesses and further strain already-distressed healthcare workers and institutions,” she wrote.

The measure spurred an intense lobbying battle among some of the most powerful forces in Albany and family members of descendants who have been pushing for changes for decades.

Among those who lobbied on the bill are some of the biggest names in the insurance industry, including Allstate and AIG, whose potential for wrongful death payouts would have increased had Hochul signed the measure into law. The same goes for major health care organizations like New York-Presbyterian and Northwell and even Uber, the ride-share company, all of which also lobbied on the bill, according to state records.

The New York Trial Lawyers Association, whose members would have had far more leeway to file wrongful death lawsuits had Hochul signed the bill, lobbied in favor of the measure.

In an op-ed in the Daily News early Monday, Hochul said she was willing to compromise on the measure, allowing it to take effect if lawmakers agreed to exempt medical malpractice claims.

But the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal and Assemblymember Helene Weinstein, said Hochul wanted to go far further than she suggested in the op-ed. In actuality, Hochul wanted to make the bill apply only to those who were under 18 at the time of their death, and she declined to extend the statute of limitations, the lawmakers said in a joint statement.

“We were presented with an alternative to the Grieving Families Act, which we think eviscerated the original bill and its intentions,” Hoylman-Sigal said in an interview Tuesday. “That was on Dec. 20, and we were told, ‘Take it or leave it.’ So it’s hard to say it was a negotiation. It’s more like we were given one option without any further discussion.”


Source link

Related posts

Judge rules NY gun ban in places of worship is unconstitutional, but restriction remains for now

Paul Vasquez

Early Addition: Drug store theft is fueling America's love of buying cheap cosmetics on Amazon

Paul Vasquez

Security firms are turning NYC’s street trees into surveillance posts for guards

Paul Vasquez