New York Governor Expected to Sign Legislation Greatly Expanding Recoverable Damages in Wrongful Death Actions
New York, N.Y. (June 3, 2022) - The New York Senate and Assembly recently passed Bill S74A, also known as the Grieving Families Act, and it is expected that Governor Hochul will likely sign the bill into law. If passed, the law would significantly expand the damages available in wrongful death actions in a number of ways.
First, Section 1 would amend EPTL section 5-4.1 to extend the statute of limitations to commence a wrongful death action from two years to three years and six months, a significant increase that will permit many more wrongful death cases to go forward.
Second, Section 2 amends EPTL section 5-4.3, to allow recovery for emotional damages if a tortfeasor is found liable for causing a death. The current law only allows recovery of economic damages, such as economic hardship caused by a loss of parental guidance. The old law did not permit recovery of damages for grief, sympathy, and loss of companionship or consortium (see, e.g., Liff v. Schildkrout, 49 N.Y.2d 622 (1980); Bumpurs v. New York City Hous. Auth., 139 A.D.2d 438, 439 (1st Dept. 1988)), but that would change with passage of the new bill.
Third, Section 3 amends EPTL section 5-4.4 to permit recovery by close family members. Under the current law, only the distributees of the estate (including parents and spouses) were permitted to recover.
Finally, Section 5 of the bill provides that the law shall take effect immediately and shall apply to all pending actions and actions commenced on or after such date. The bill would not apply only to new actions.
If these significant alterations to the wrongful death statute are signed into law as expected, defendants and insurers statewide should anticipate a significant increase in recoverable damages in wrongful death cases for all currently pending lawsuits.
If the bill is passed into law, we will promptly arrange a webinar to discuss this legislation in detail. If you have any questions about this bill or any other matters, please contact the author or editors of this alert. Visit our General Liability Practice page for additional alerts in this area.
Nicholas P. Hurzeler, Partner
Gregory S. Katz, Managing Partner - New York, NY
Jennifer R. Oxman, Partner
Karen L. Campbell, Partner