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Legislative Memo

T 518.465.7517

BILL:

S.2994 (DeFrancisco) / A.6637 (Weinstein)

Support

SUBJECT:

Wrongful Death

 

DATE:

April 15, 2003

 

The Business Council of New York State, Inc., whose membership includes over 4,000 member companies, chambers of commerce, and associations, has reviewed the aforementioned legislation and is opposed to its enactment. The proposed legislation attempts to expand New York's wrongful death statute by authorizing compensation for grief and emotional loss in a wrongful death action.

Given the present economic climate in New York State, the legislature should be looking for ways to make insurance more affordable and more available for all its citizens, both private and corporate. This bill would increase the cost of liability insurance for most New Yorkers and in many cases these additional costs will be passed on to the consumer. Automobile, general liability and medical malpractice insurance premiums could all be impacted by a proposal such as this.

For those who are self-insured or uninsured, including in many cases the state as well as local municipalities, this proposal could result in significant costs.

This proposal would clearly open a highly speculative area for consideration by juries which will lead to much higher verdicts in those affected cases and would surely lead to greater uncertainty and unpredictability in the tort system that we have previously identified and have tried to address in other legislative proposals. This highly charged emotional issue of attempting to assess economic value to the emotional impact of the loss of life is a highly subjective task for a jury and could lead to astronomical verdicts.

Furthermore, we would not expect any meaningful appellate review of verdicts which allowed this measure of damage because an Appellate Court is unlikely to substitute its valuation of this type of damage for that of the trier of fact. It is for all these reasons that the legislature has not in the past allowed a jury to venture into this area in assessing damages and, we respectfully submit that sound reasoning should not now be disturbed.

For the above stated reasons the Business Council opposes S.2994/A.6637 and requests its not be acted upon this session.