NY bill would expand types of financial damages recovered in wrongful death lawsuits

Crystal Cranmore Image
Monday, July 31, 2023
NY bill would expand financial damages recovered after wrongful deaths
A proposed New York State bill would expand the types of financial damages people can recover in a wrongful death lawsuit and who can recover them. Reporter Crystal Cranmore has the story.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A piece of legislation working its way to New York Gov. Kathy Hochul's desk is designed to give families a little solace when they experience the unimaginable.

The Grieving Families Act aims to help families who lost someone by giving them what their loved one was worth and not what they earned.

"Not only did I lose a partner, I lost the love of my life," said maternal health advocate Bruce McIntyre III.

McIntyre has spent the last three years making sure his partner didn't die in vain.

"Amber was such a phenomenal, divine light, and she just had this amazing glow to her," McIntyre said.

Amber Rose Isaac, 26, died giving birth to the couple's son, Elias who is now 3 years old.

McIntyre alleges it was medical negligence.

"She was being neglected time and time and time again," he said. "Her concerns were being unanswered or brushed away."

He's taking his fight for justice to the courts, supporting a New York State bill that expands the types of financial damages people can recover in a wrongful death lawsuit and who can recover them.

If it becomes a law, The Grieving Families Act would allow surviving close family members to sue for grief or anguish and loss of love -- not just for financial loss.

"The reason we need to reform this law is not just because it's antiquated, but it's also discriminatory," Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal said. "It's discriminatory against people of color against seniors, against younger people, because their lives would be based solely on their economic potential."

Under the state law, the amount of money you make limits how much your family can sue for in a wrongful death case.

That means that compared to white men, cases involving Black women could see up to 30% less in a settlement or verdict after medical and burial costs. Black men could see up to 26% less.

Opponents of the bill worry about skyrocketing liability insurance costs.

"Fifty percent of the doctors we train in New York leave because it's a difficult environment to make a living," said Dr. Thomas P. Sterry, President of the New York County Medical Society. "New York State already is the state that pays out more for liability claims than any other state in the country."

Senator Hoylman-Sigal doesn't believe the legislation would lead to higher liability insurance costs. "That's just the scare tactics put forth by big insurance companies," he said.

For McIntyre, this is about accountability. He says Amber's life was worth more than her income.

"This would essentially have people stop looking at us as just numbers and statistics, and more as people," McIntyre said.

A win would mean more support for his son and continued advocacy work for Black maternal health.

"A lot of people ask me that question. 'Where are you finding your strength to be able to do what you're doing?'" McIntyre said. "I tell them all the time, 'That's not me. That's Amber's strength.'"


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