FILE Kathy Hochul

Albany, NY - August 11, 2021: Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul Addresses People of New York at State Capitol Building

(The Center Square) – A bill that would expand wrongful death liability in New York has made its way to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s desk for her consideration.

The Grieving Families Act would allow more individuals to file lawsuits and seek emotional damages in wrongful death cases. It would also expand the statute of limitations for such claims from two years to three-and-a-half years.

New York’s current wrongful death law has been in place since 1847. Unlike laws in most other states, it does not allow for noneconomic losses in such cases.

“The current law harshly impacts children, seniors, women and people of color who are already systemically undervalued in our society,” the Grieving Families Coalition said in a statement of support for the measure on its website.

Earlier this month, 16 organizations, including the New York Public Interest Research Group, sent Hochul a letter urging her to sign it into law. The bill also has backing from the New York State Trial Lawyers Association.

While the bill passed with large majorities in both the Assembly and Senate, several business groups and government associations have called on the governor to veto the bill. They said liability insurance will skyrocket for medical professionals by 40%, if it's enacted. Other businesses, and even cities and counties would also see their premiums jump, and opponents say that could lead to higher prices for consumers and tax increases from municipalities.

Tom Stebbins, executive director for the Lawsuit Reform Alliance, defended the study conducted by actuarial firm Milliman, which has come under scrutiny from the bill’s backer. He said he hopes Hochul will make her decision objectively, and not based on what “Albany’s most powerful special interest – the personal injury trial lawyers” claim.

“The trial lawyers and their influence machine in Albany – which includes elected officials and certain non-profits – know that the facts are not on their side when it comes to the real-world impact of S.74A, so they have turned to attacking the messenger,” he said. “Rather than face this debate with evidence and data, the trial lawyer lobby continues to peddle misinformation and push a narrative untethered to the truth.”

Hochul has 30 days to veto the bill or sign it into law. The New York Law Journal reported this week Hochul may look to amend the legislation if she approves it.