By Ron Alfaro

Ronald Alfaro

An amended version of the Grieving Families Act has been introduced by New York State lawmakers in response to Governor Kathy Hochul's veto of the original bill in January. The revised bill aims to expand the state's wrongful death statute, with a few key changes:

  1. The statute of limitations to file a wrongful death lawsuit would be extended from two to three years, a reduction from the previously proposed three-and-a-half-year timeline.
  2. Emotional losses to eligible family members, not just economic ones, would be compensable.
  3. The definition of eligible close family members would be expanded within set parameters, covering spouses, domestic partners, foster children, stepchildren, step-grandparents, parents, grandparents, siblings, or anyone acting “in loco parentis” to the deceased person.

The original bill was vetoed due to concerns about unintended consequences for the healthcare system and the lack of serious evaluation of the bill's impact on the economy, small businesses, individuals, and the state's healthcare system. (See g+b’s prior blog article on the original bill here.) One of the other concerns was the retroactivity component of the prior bill. The current proposal, as of now, remains silent on whether the amended Grieving Families Act would apply retroactively or just prospectively. The amended bill attempts to address these concerns by offering a narrower and more clearly defined group of close relatives who can file a claim.

Advocates argue that the reforms are essential for delivering justice to the families of women, people of color, children, seniors, and low-income earners. New York’s current wrongful death statute, which has not seen significant changes since 1847, only allows for compensation based on financial losses.