June 7, 2023

By William Parra

Yesterday evening, the NY State Senate voted on and passed the amended “Grieving Families Act” bill, which was reintroduced and passed in the Assembly last week (see our previous alert on the matter here).

Having now passed both houses of the state legislature, the bill is expected to be formally sent to the Governor’s office soon, which will trigger a 10-day deadline for Governor Hochul to sign it into law, veto or pass it with a change memo listing requested changes for the legislature to incorporate and vote on. The Times Union reports that notwithstanding modifications to the original bill, this will be its second review by the Governor in 6 months (she vetoed the original bill in Jan. 2023) and “it is unclear whether [Governor] Hochul’s position on the measure has changed. In a stock statement, [Governor] Hochul’s spokesman John Lindsay said the [G]overnor will review any measure that passes both houses.” It further reports that State Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal who re-introduced the bill stated that he has had informal discussions with the Governor’s staff and is optimistic that it has a “better chance than ever” of passage.

The Times Union is of course referring to the modifications made to the original bill to address the Governor and industry groups’ concerns about the financial impact of the proposed amendments to NY’s wrongful death statute. As we reported yesterday, in vetoing the bill in Jan. 2023, the Governor noted her concerns over the financial impact of increased litigation, health and insurance costs on lower-income families, small businesses, health care workers and hospitals. Most importantly, she called for evaluation of the financial impact of these changes, including consideration of NY’s constitutional prohibition against limits on jury damage verdicts, acknowledging that states with more expansive wrongful death statutes also have laws capping damage verdicts. As we noted in our previous alert, there is no indication in recent reporting of the bill that any of the proposed amendments are based on the “serious evaluation and study of the Act’s financial impact” on businesses, hospitals and municipalities that the Governor called for.

We will continue to monitor the bill’s consideration by the Governor. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Howard Klar or William Parra.