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New York Grieving Families Act 

August 7, 2023

There has been much in the news regarding the Grieving Families Act. 

Since 1847, New York State has had what is called the wrongful death statute. The purpose of the wrongful death statute is to protect a surviving spouse or individuals dependent on someone who has died. If the recently deceased had been able to sue someone for wrongful conduct, those who relied on that person for support are able to recover on their behalf. Traditionally, close family members only had two years from the date of death to file a lawsuit. This restriction may be set to change in the near future.

On June 12, 2023, the New York Senate passed a bill, which has now gone to the Assembly, that proposes significant changes to the wrongful death statute. The bill has come to be known as the Amended Grieving Families Act. This bill seeks to extend the statute of limitations for filing from two years to three years. It also would allow family members to recover for grief or anguish suffered by the death of their loved one, on top of any monetary damages they could receive from a lawsuit. A significant point in this bill is the proposition that a jury be given the power to decide who qualifies as a “close” family member and who is entitled to recover due to their relationship with the recently deceased. The bill will also expand “surviving close family members” to encompass spouses, domestic partners, issue (natural children), foster and stepchildren, step-grandchildren, parents, grandparents, stepparents, step-grandparents, siblings, or any person who assumes the role of a parent in the absence of one. Upon passage of this bill, any wrongful death could potentially be covered leading back to July 1, 2018.

There is some concern about insurance coverage disputes, consequences for health care providers, expanded discovery requirements in litigation (which could mean longer and more invasive depositions), and higher personnel hours. Governor Kathy Hochul referenced some of these concerns for her hesitancy to pass the bill. The bill will need to undergo intense scrutiny for its potential impact on New York’s healthcare system, small businesses, the economy, and individuals. Tiveron Law will continue to provide information as this area of legislation develops.