On The Horizon? New York Legislature Considers Drastic Change to Wrongful Death Damages

By Thomas M. Bona and Neil L. Sambursky.

Some laws last forever, and other laws only seem that way. New York’s law concerning damages for a wrongful death was enacted over 150 years ago and remained in place. One of the keystone elements of this law is that it does not allow for the recovery of emotional loss to survivors. This has long been a sore point to plaintiffs’ lawyers, who point out that New York is out of step with reality since 41 states now allow compensation for emotional loss to family members. Current law provides pecuniary loss only when a jury finds a reasonable expectation that financial loss has occurred. However, this may soon change.

There is currently pending in the New York legislature a bill that would dramatically change New York’s wrongful death law and recover monetary damages emotional loss. The new law would permit damages for grief or loss caused by the decedent’s death and any disorder caused by the grief or anguish; loss of love, society, protection, comfort, companionship, and consortium resulting from the decedent’s death; loss of nurture, guidance, counsel, advice, training, and education resulting from the decedent’s death.

In 2019, the same bill was introduced in the State Senate but did not get to a vote. This year, the same bill has been introduced, and with a progressive-leaning legislature, this bill may get to a vote. It is unclear whether the Governor would sign or veto the new law if it is passed. PMT will always keep you up to date with changes in the law that affect our clients.

Should you have any questions, please call our office at (914) 703-6300 or contact:

Marc H. Pillinger, Executive Partner

Jeffrey T. Miller, Executive Partner