New York State (WRGB) — What’s the holdup with the 'Grieving Families Act'? A spokesman for Governor Kathy Hochul’s Office tells CBS 6’s Anne McCloy Hochul is reviewing the legislation a state senator says will right a wrong in a state law he says right now discriminates against children, seniors and people of color. Advocates believe that if the bill becomes law, it could also help families who lost loved ones in the COVID-19 nursing home disaster.
“I’m eager for the governor to take the bill up and sign it, I hope it happens sooner rather than later.”
State Senator Brad Hoylman (D- Manhattan) is urging Hochul to sign Senate Bill 74A, labeled the ‘Grieving Families Act’, because if passed, he says it would bring justice to a plethora of New York families.
The wrongful death lawsuit is 170 years old. It’s been in existence really since the beginning of these type of lawsuits and hasn’t been updated since even though 47 other states have updated their statutes to include non-economic damages,” Hoylman said.
Right now, Hoylman says the outdated statute only allows judges and juries to evaluate a person's economic worth in a case of wrongful death, preventing families from collecting damages in lawsuits where the deceased person doesn't have a job.
“It's your current level, what you currently make and your future income. It’s impossible to determine a child’s future income, so they look at what it is now, which is zero, and it’s even hard for me to say that, but that’s the cruel reality of New York’s wrongful death statute, and that would also apply to seniors,’ Hoylman said.
The bill, sponsored by Hoylman and Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein (D- Brooklyn) would allow courts to take the impact of a death on a person's family into account during lawsuits. The bill has strong support from advocates who want to pursue lawsuits over the 15,000 seniors who died in nursing homes from COVID-19.
Advocate and Fox News personality Janice Dean and Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Queens) both lost family members to COVID in nursing homes.
MORE: Fox News' Janice Dean doesn't believe Hochul pandemic review will be truly "independent"
“I want that bill in its current form on the Governor’s desk. I don’t want anything put into it or taken out of it,” Dean said.
We are hoping that for once she [Hochul] will step-up and side with the families instead of the industry and special interest groups,” Kim said.
“I think it’s fantastic they are supporting the legislation,” Hoylman said.
Dean and Kim are afraid Hochul won't sign the legislation because of pressure from medical groups and businesses who wrote a letter to Hochul, urging her to veto the bill.
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Hoylman tells CBS 6’s Anne McCloy he won't bow to the pressure.
Hoylman: The bill as it stands now is what’s necessary to address the inequitable aspects of New York’s wrongful death law.
Anne: Do you foresee any issue with it getting signed?
Hoylman: I don’t. That’s why I passed the bill. I think it’s a strong piece of legislation that had overwhelming support in both chambers. I think for anyone to contemplate amendments, or worse a veto would be completely out of step with the legislature’s vote. We’ve heard no negative communication which is good news we hope she signs it soon.
Hoylman says the Assembly co-sponsor Weinstein has been trying to get this legislation passed for almost 25 years, this is the first time it passed the Senate and made it to the Hochul’s desk.
Governor Hochul's office would not give a timeline on when she might have a decision on the legislation, telling me the legislature passed hundreds of bills this session and that Hochul has until December 31st to act.