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New York Governor Vetoes Emotional Damages Legislation: Concerns Over Unintended Consequences Persist

New York Governor Vetoes Emotional Damages Legislation: Concerns Over Unintended Consequences Persist
Source: KATV

New York Governor Kathy Hochul has once again vetoed the Grieving Families Act, a proposed legislation that aimed to alter the state’s wrongful death statute, allowing families to seek damages for emotional suffering following the loss of a loved one. This marks the second time this year that Governor Hochul has declined to sign the bill, citing concerns about its potential unintended consequences.

Governor’s Worries Include Insurance Premium Hikes and Impact on Healthcare Facilities

In her veto memo, Governor Hochul, a Democrat, expressed support for reforming the existing wrongful death statute but emphasized reservations about the bill presented to her. Among her chief concerns were the possibility of increased insurance premiums for consumers and potential financial risks for public hospitals and other healthcare facilities. The governor asserted that while every human life is valuable, the proposed legislation could lead to unintended outcomes that might negatively affect various sectors.

New York Governor Vetoes Emotional Damages Legislation: Concerns Over Unintended Consequences Persist

Source: Kathy Hochul

Long-Standing Disparity in Wrongful Death Compensation: Governor Advocates for Fairness

New York is among the minority of states that currently consider only economic loss in wrongful death lawsuits. The state’s existing statute calculates compensation based on pecuniary loss, often resulting in disparate payouts. Governor Hochul acknowledged the inherent unfairness of valuing life solely on potential earnings, stating that it often reinforces historical inequities and discriminatory practices. Despite advocating for reform, she chose to veto the bill, asserting that lawmakers failed to adequately address her concerns raised during the rejection of a previous version in January.

Governor Hochul’s decision to veto the legislation drew sharp criticism from David Scher, the head of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association. Scher labeled the move as a “grave miscarriage of justice,” expressing concern that the governor’s stance jeopardizes the safety of New Yorkers and upholds a morally questionable standard in the state’s current law.

What if the Legislation Had Been Enacted?

The Grieving Families Act, a long-sought reform, had been in legislative limbo for approximately two decades before gaining momentum and reaching Governor Hochul’s desk last year. Despite strong bipartisan support and attempts to address the governor’s concerns, the legislation has faced consistent vetoes. Governor Hochul’s veto memo suggested that she remains open to updating the wrongful death statute. Still, it emphasized the need for a more comprehensive and balanced approach to address the diverse challenges associated with the proposed changes.

New York Governor Vetoes Emotional Damages Legislation: Concerns Over Unintended Consequences Persist

Source: Ben Crump

The legislation had it been enacted, would have allowed families pursuing wrongful death lawsuits to seek compensation for funeral expenses, specific medical costs related to the death, and the emotional toll experienced, in addition to fiscal losses. The ongoing debate underscores the complexities of reforming statutes that have long-lasting implications for individuals seeking justice and the broader legal landscape.

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