ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)—Governor Kathy Hochul vetoed the Grieving Families Act, legislation that would have updated New York’s Wrongful death statute—a law that has been in effect since before the civil war and hasn’t had major changes made to it in 150 years.
Lawmakers say this legislation would have benefited those who lost family members in tragedies such as the Tops Mass Shooting in Buffalo and the Schoharie Limo Crash.
“We were just shocked that the state would be so callous this day in age,” said Kevin Cushing, who lost his son Patrick in the Schoharie Limo Crash in 2018.
Cushing has been advocating for updates to New York’s wrongful death statue by supporting The Grieving families Act, which would have allowed families to claim non-economic damages such as emotional loss.
“That they basically would tell us, your child is only as good as his economic value, his paycheck and where he went to school, and his age or her age. I can’t say it’s criminal, but it’s absolutely horrible,” Cushing said of the state’s current statute.
The Grieving Families Act passed with bipartisan support at the end of last session. Advocates waited for months for it to be signed, however, it was vetoed just hours before the deadline.
“The day before the legislation should have been signed, and when it wasn’t signed, it was a gut punch. And we have gotten so many gut punches over the last couple years.”
As to why Governor Hochul vetoed the bill, she said in-part, “This bill passed without a serious evaluation of the impact of these massive changes on the economy, small businesses, individuals, and the State’s complex health care system.”
Senator Hoylman-Sigal respectfully disagrees that it would drive up costs.
“Other states, 47, have similar statues that allow families of loved ones who have been killed in a wrongful death situation, to claim non-economic and emotional losses. And premiums have not been driven up in those states.”
Lawmakers say they will continue to work to get the legislation passed. The Governor also gave some proposals of her own.
“[Governor Hochul] didn’t say let’s not talk about it, so I think we can certainly go from there,” said Senate Majority Leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
“I just know there’s not one of us that doesn’t grieve every single day of our lives,” explained Cushing. “Some days are much worse than others, but not a day goes by that we are not reminded about not having our love ones with us that’s never gonna go away and quite frankly, we’re not gonna go away until we get the law changed.”