Ad campaign launched on New York's wrongful death lawsuits reform bill

Opponents of a bill reforming wrongful death lawsuits in New York have launched an advertising campaign to urge Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul to veto the bill.

Updated: September 18, 2022 - 10:58pm

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Opponents of a bill reforming wrongful death lawsuits in New York have launched an advertising campaign to urge Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul to veto the bill.

The first ad by the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York appeared in Thursday’s New York Daily News. The organization said that A6770/S74-A would lead to sharp increases in insurance costs when other costs are dramatically rising, too.

The bill, which passed the state Legislature earlier this year, would lengthen the statute of limitations in wrongful death cases to three-and-a-half years from two years. It also would allow plaintiffs in such cases to sue for noneconomic reasons, such as losing a minor or retiree.

Proponents say the bill would bring New York up to par with nearly every other state.

However, opponents of the bill include local officials, medical professionals and the business community. They agree there should be changes in the state’s civil justice system, but those reforms should focus on lowering costs.

Peter Baynes, the executive director for the New York State Conference of Mayors, said that the liability insurance premium increases for municipalities would force them to take taxpayer funds away from covering vital functions.

“Local governments in New York already contend with a uniquely difficult liability environment and are roped into a disproportionate number of lawsuits, even when they have little or no connection to the underlying matter,” Baynes said.

Critics of the bill also say that the justice system in New York already leads to high insurance costs, especially for the medical community. The liability costs for health care providers, who already pay among the highest insurance premiums in the U.S., could go up by 45%, according to an actuarial analysis by Milliman, Inc.

Medical Society of New York President Dr. Parag Mehta said that if Hochul signs the bill into law, it would have a “devastating” impact on patients.

The bill “undermines the financial survival of their primary care doctors, pediatricians, OBGYNS, any specialty doctor they see as well as emergency physicians – particularly those in underserved and diverse communities who are already financially challenged.” Mehta said.

The Business Council of New York says the bill would raise prices for consumers and cause health-care costs to rise by double-digit figures for years to come.

“This is a difficult economic environment for everyone,” said Lev Ginsburg, counsel to The Business Council of New York. “We should be focused on good public policy that reduces costs, combats inflation, and eases the burden on our economy.”

Proponents also have a website urging New Yorkers to contact the governor about the bill.

The bill has yet to hit Hochul’s desk. She will have 10 days to sign the bill into law or veto it when it does.