On December 29, 2023, New York Governor Kathy Hochul vetoed the revised S74A "Grieving Families Act" for the second time since its inception over a year ago. The law was aimed at substantially expanding compensable damages in wrongful death actions.
The purpose of the "Grieving Families Act" was to update the current wrongful death statute which has been in place since 1847. The bill strived to acknowledge that damages caused by losing a loved one are not confined to the financial support received from the decedent's wages, but also may involve emotional and psychological losses. Specifically, it redefined the types of damages that might be recovered, expanded the class of individuals who may recover such damages, and extended the statute of limitations.
The concern voiced by opponents was significant and argued that the increased access to damages in S74A for emotional suffering would open the floodgates for lawsuits and pave the way for potential nuclear verdicts. Opponents argued that the costs of these verdicts would also be passed directly onto the consumer in the form of higher insurance premiums. Hochul vetoed the bill due to this unknown cost and impact on health insurance coverage and premiums in New York as well as the financial consequences for public hospitals and other medical service providers.
Horchul stated in her Veto #151 memo, "Legitimate concerns have been raised that this bill would likely increase insurance premiums for the vast majority of consumers, as well as risk the financial well-being of our health care facilities." The governor noted that she would like to find solutions to the outdated wrongful death statute but welcomed further work by the legislature in finding the proper balance between consequences for healthcare and insurance professionals as well as families impacted by the wrongful death of a loved one.