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The Grieving Families Act

Aug. 29, 2023

The Wrongful Death Law in New York State does not currently allow recovery for the emotional loss that close surviving family members experience when a loved one dies as the result of a wrongful act, including the negligence of a medical provider. The Grieving Families Act is an attempt to rectify this antiquated and unjust New York law, which dates back to the mid- nineteenth century, by allowing families to recover compensation for their emotional anguish.

In 2022, the Grieving Families Act was passed by the New York State House and Senate. It was then sent to Governor Hochul for her signature. The Governor vetoed it based on various reasons including, unknown costs, the lack of a definition of “close family member”, and the extension of the statute of limitations for wrongful death from two to three years.

In 2023, a revised Grieving Families Act was reintroduced in the New York State Legislature and is, once again, awaiting Governor Hochul’s signature.

The Grieving Families Act, if signed by the Governor will allow a recovery for damages created by the negligent actions of another which have caused the death of the deceased. Such damages would include, if appropriate, a monetary recovery for the grief or anguish caused by the decedent’s death and the loss of love, society, protection, comfort, companionship, and consortium resulting from the decedent’s death.

Any such recovery would apply to surviving close family members. The Act, as revised, defines close family members as the “decedent’s spouse or domestic partner, issue, foster-children, step-children, and step-grandchildren, parents, grand-parents, step-parents, step-grandparents, siblings or any person standing in loco parentis to the decedent”.

The recovery, if any, would be determined by the finder of fact (jury, judge, etc.). It would be up to the finder of fact to determine which, if any, close family members might be entitled to a recovery based upon their relationship with the decedent.

The Grieving Families Act, if signed by Governor Hochul, will update New York State’s long outdated wrongful death laws and will provide for recognition of the true value of a decedent to close family members.