Amid soaring inflation, a shaky economy and looming state and city budget gaps, the geniuses in the Legislature this year passed a bill to raise costs for New Yorkers further by expanding the state’s wrongful-death law — and thus rewarding lawyers. It’s up to Gov. Kathy Hochul to block it.
Known as the Grieving Families Act, the bill would let survivors sue for personal grief, not just quantifiable monetary expenses. It would also extend the time they have to sue to 3½ years and let unmarried partners and others collect damages.
Lawyers who get a big chunk of the awards will do great. But average New Yorkers will suffer: The extra billions plaintiffs collect won’t fall from the sky, after all; they’ll come largely from insurance companies that’ll pass costs to customers. Businesses that are hit will, in turn, jack up prices or trim workers to save money.
Health-care providers will be especially hurt: Medical Society prez Dr. Parag Mehta cites actuarial estimates predicting a 40% hike in malpractice premiums for private doctors and 45% for hospitals. The New York Business Council’s Lev Ginsburg fears the bill will force physicians to deploy “defensive medicine,” such as ordering extra tests to protect them from potential suits. Others warn of doctors fleeing the state.
Auto-insurance premiums, meanwhile, would jump 6% and general liability coverage 11%, per a New York Civil Justice Institute study.
Not even local governments would be safe: New York State Conference of Mayors head Peter Baynes envisions a “torrent of speculative litigation that will strain local government budgets,” even though, thanks to the state’s “uniquely hostile liability environment, municipalities are already roped into a disproportionate number of lawsuits.”
“This bill will drain municipal budgets, increase household expenses” amid inflation and “devastate New York’s already strained health-care system,” adds Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York boss Tom Stebbins.
At the moment, the gov (as usual) claims to be undecided (it’s her usual “I’ll tell you where I stand after you reelect me” shtick). Yet this is a no-brainer: To protect New Yorkers, Hochul needs to ensure this bill never becomes law.