A proposal to expand and update New York's century-old wrongful death law to include emotional anguish has become the subject of renewed lobbying in Albany before the bill heads to Gov. Kathy Hochul's desk for final consideration.
The measure, approved earlier this year by the Democratic-controlled state Legislature, is meant to provide an update to the existing wrongful death statutes and, supporters argue, put New York in line with other states that have similar emotional anguish measures on the books.
If approved, the measure would expand the ability of a person to bring a wrongful death claim for emotional loss or suffering when a loved one dies. Existing statutes cover claims for so-called pecuniary losses -- a financial loss that is experienced due to a death.
Supporters of the change to expand to emotional anguish provisions have argued the existing law negatively affects children, people of color and lower-income families.
But local governments and business organizations have urged Hochul to veto the legislation when it comes to her desk, pointing to the potential cost they would shoulder as a result.
This week, the Dutchess County Medical Society added its name to the group of opponents seeking the veto. The organization wrote in a letter to the governor, set to be released publicly on Wednesday, arguing the measure could have the effect of raising insurance premiums by as much as 45%.
Patients would have the costs passed down to them, the group wrote.
"The citizens of Dutchess County and all of New York will lose out," the group wrote. "They will face increased health insurance premiums and longer wait times, which lead to worse health outcomes."
The doctors' groups wrote they back the intent of the legislation, but pointed to other states that have put "guardrails" in place meant to prevent large payouts to resolve lawsuits and in turn lead to higher premiums.
"For this bill to work for all New Yorkers, legislative leaders and the Executive Chamber must prioritize comprehensive liability reform," the groups wrote. "To preserve access to our healthcare safety net, we call on your office to veto this legislation and bring together all stakeholders to discuss how our liability laws can be equitably reformed without chasing our dedicated physicians out of New York."