Gov. Hochul Shoots Down Proposed Damages for Emotional Suffering in Wrongful Death Cases

Gov. Hochul Shoots Down Proposed Damages for Emotional Suffering in Wrongful Death Cases

For the second time, on December 29, 2023, Governor Kathy Hochul vetoed the Grieving Families Act. The Grieving Families Act sought to expand New York’s wrongful death statute by letting families recover damages for emotional suffering from the death of a loved one. Specifically, the proposed state senate bill sought to allow compensation for the following:

(i) reasonable funeral expenses of the decedent paid by the persons for whose benefit the action is brought, or for the payment of which any persons for whose benefit the action is brought is responsible; (ii) reasonable expenses for medical care incident to the injury causing death, including but not limited to doctors, nursing, attendant care, treatment, hospitalization of the decedent, and medicines; (iii) grief or anguish caused by the decedent’s death; (iv) loss of love, society, protection, comfort, companionship, and consortium resulting from the decedent’s death; (v) pecuniary injuries, including loss of services, support, assistance, and loss or diminishment of inheritance, resulting from the decedent’s death; and (vi) loss of nurture, guidance, counsel, advice, training, and education resulting from the decedent’s death.[i]

“Surviving close family members” was restricted to a spouse, domestic partner, issue, foster-children, step-children, step-grandchildren, parents, grand-parents, step-parents, step-grandparents, siblings, or “any person standing in loco parentis to the decedent.”[ii]

Currently, New York is one of three states where families cannot be compensated for emotional loss in wrongful death lawsuits. Recovery is primarily determined by the amount of a victim’s potential income. Proponents of the Grieving Families Act have argued, “[t]he [current] law is discriminatory against people who don’t make a lot of money or don’t have a potential for a lot of money. That would include children.” [iii]

Earlier in 2023, Governor Hochul vetoed the bill for the first time, arguing in part that it could significantly increase insurance premiums. In vetoing the bill for a second time, Governor Hochul stated the new version of the bill failed to address unintended consequences. In a memo issued after her veto, Governor Hochul stated, “After much deliberation, I find that the likelihood of these unintended consequences has not been ameliorated…Legitimate concerns have been raised that the bill would likely lead to increased insurance premiums for the vast majority of consumers, as well as risk the financial well-being of our health care facilities — most notably, for public hospitals that serve disadvantaged communities.”[iv]

The bill has been opposed by numerous groups, including the New York Business Council and the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, which includes the healthcare industry, small businesses, the trucking industry, and various trade groups. The New York Business Council argued the bill “would have drastically increased liability insurance premiums for consumers and employers of all sizes, making it harder to attract and retain businesses and ultimately lead to higher costs for New Yorkers.”[v]



The vetoing of the bill is a win for the insurance industry and businesses across the state. Should the bill eventually get passed, the value of wrongful death cases will increase exponentially. With the trend of increasing Nuclear Verdicts® in the state, the passage of the bill would be catastrophic, but fortunately, New York’s governor understands the unintended consequences the bill would have on insurance in its current iteration, and she has defended the state from these unintended consequences twice now.




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[i] NY State Senate Bill 2023-S6636

[ii] Id



[v] Id