Legal Alerts

Potential Expansion of Emotional Damages Under New York's Grieving Families Act

New York, N.Y. (May 26, 2022) - The New York State Legislature is currently reviewing proposed bill S74A, known as the Grieving Families Act (GFA). Introduced by State Senator Brad Hoylman (D – Manhattan), the GFA proposes a vast expansion of compensable damages in wrongful death actions. Under the current statutory scheme (codified in New York’s Estates Powers and Trusts Law Sections 5-4.1 through 5-4.6), compensable damages in wrongful death actions are limited to pecuniary loss only, such as pre-death medical expenses, funeral expenses, and loss of financial support. Proponents of the GFA argue the current statutory scheme unfairly precludes emotional damages and does not justly compensate for the wrongful death of a loved one who was unemployed or did not provide financial support at the time of their death.

The GFA also seeks to expand eligible distributees of emotional damages. The GFA would permit recovery by “close family members,” including, but not limited to spouses, domestic partners, children, parents, grandparents, stepparents, and siblings. The Act would also permit the fact finder to determine “close family members” of the decedent based on the specific circumstances of the person’s relationship with the decedent.

Passage of the GFA will have a tremendous impact on potential damages in wrongful death cases and could result in exponential exposure for defendants. If the GFA is enacted into law, civil complaints alleging wrongful death will contain several plaintiffs on behalf of the decedent. The increase in plaintiffs per lawsuit may significantly extend the life of a case and will undoubtedly increase litigation costs, settlement demands, and verdicts.

The Act is currently being reviewed by the Senate Finance Committee. If the GFA passes committee review, it will proceed to the Senate and Assembly floors. If passed by the Senate and Assembly, it will proceed to the governor, who has the authority to veto the bill or sign it into law. The Act has failed in both the Senate and Assembly every year since 1999.

We will continue to monitor this legislation and will provide updates as necessary. For more information, contact the author or editor of this alert. Visit our General Liability Practice page for additional alerts in this area.


Corey Shulman, Partner


Karen L. Campbell, Partner

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