UTICA, N.Y. (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY) – With the passing of the ‘Grieving Families Act’ by the New York State senate and assembly on June 7, 2022, the proposed legislation currently awaits its fate before gov. Kathy Hochul signed it into law. However, it is under fierce debate among grieving families and New York state’s entities who will bear the increasing liability of insurance premiums.

The bill, known as the Grieving Families Act, amends the state’s wrongful death law by permitting families to recover non-financial damages for emotional anguish if their loved one was a victim of wrongful death. And it also redefines “close family members” and broadens the range of potential

plaintiffs to unmarried and domestic partners. In addition to this, the act extends the window of bringing a wrongful death lawsuit from within two years to 3.5 years.

Dating back to 1847 when the existing law was first written, it was considered to be one of the best laws across the country. Given that it has not been updated in the past 170 years, now people are arguing to reform this law in order to better reflect society as it is in 2022.

Executive director of New York Public Interest Research Group Blair Horner has been leading his team to advocate for this reformation.

“So if you are a hedge fund manager on Wall Street, your family member will be compensated considerably. If you are a senior citizen, or a child, or poor, your family does not. We don’t think that the value of the person should be measured purely on economic loss because the loss is much greater to the family,” said Horner.

Sabrina Bonanza from Sauquoit lost her fiancé and our infant son’s dad when a car pulled out in front of Ian’s motorcycle in Utica. Sadly, she is not alone. There are hundreds of people who lost their loved ones to wrongful death who are urging Hochul for this new change.

Public and private entities have raised concerns with the negative effect of this reformation, emphasizing the increasing liability for all New York residents.

“This bill would essentially increase cost for all New Yorkers especially at a time when we are facing some of the highest increase we have seen in the past 40 years. This bill would increase the cost for doctors by over 40% on their medical insurance liability. Now New York doctors already paid more than any other doctors in the United States for their medical liability cost,” said

Tom Stebbins, Executive director of The Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York.

“So many different groups have been in opposition with this bill and obviously the medical group which are incredibly strapped and only now are just recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic. We also have Monkeypox on the rise and polio coming as well so this is a terrible time to increase cost on our health

care professionals. They are incredibly strapped. Any investment that gov. Hochul has made in health care would essentially be washed away if this bill were to pass,” he said.

He argues that the bill would actually devastate people of lower income.

“This bill would vastly increase their cost which would dramatically hurt those with lower income access to care at a time when these hospitals are closing and they are already struggling to get that access to care and this would make that much worse. We also struggle to attract the best doctors and that would make it more difficult for those lower-income communities to attract doctors to practice in their areas,” he said.

Now, people are anxiously waiting for Gov. Kathy Hochul to either sign, veto, or negotiate for changes with the executive leaders of both houses. She has until Jan 2023 to make her final decision.

“This is not an ideology issue in the sense of partisanship. This is really just an issue of fairness,” Horner said.