Commonsense Prevails in New York, Governor Hochul Vetoes Liability-Expanding Bills
Following New York City’s designation as the #4 Judicial Hellhole in the recently released 2023-2024 report, New York Governor Kathy Hochul took important steps to prevent further deterioration of the state’s civil justice system.
On December 22, Governor Hochul vetoed legislation that would have required every corporation registered in New York to consent to be sued in the state’s courts. Similar legislation has been enacted in the #1 Judicial Hellhole, Pennsylvania, which has led to a dramatic increase in litigation tourism. Philadelphia courts are filled with cases that have no direct ties to the jurisdiction. Without these protections in place, plaintiffs’ lawyers can file lawsuits in the state court of their choosing, taking advantage of a court’s reputation for high verdicts and plaintiff-friendly rulings. Governor Hochul recognized the uncertainty this approach would create for businesses and the burden it would place on New York’s judicial system.
The following week, on December 29, Governor Hochul vetoed the Grieving Families Act (GFA), legislation that would have dramatically expanded the state’s wrongful death law and made New York an extreme outlier. The GFA expanded compensable damages in New York’s wrongful death actions and expanded the eligible recipients of these damages to include “close family members,” including, spouses, domestic partners, children, parents, grandparents, stepparents, and siblings.
In addition, the GFA increased the statute of limitations for filing lawsuits to blame someone for a person’s death from two to three years and applies retroactively. In sum, the GFA meant more wrongful death lawsuits, by more people, with larger awards will soon arrive in New York. The changes surely would have increased litigation costs, settlement demands, and verdicts.
According to Milliman, Inc., if enacted, the legislation would have increased general and automobile policy premiums by 11%, or almost $2.14 billion for New York residents and businesses.
ATRA applauds Governor Hochul’s commonsense approach and encourages New York’s leadership to take proactive steps to address the rampant lawsuit abuse occurring in the state.