Bill would let families seek emotional damages in gun-related wrongful death cases

Photo courtesy of the New York State Attorney General’s Office
A bill introduced in the Senate October 25 would allow families of those killed by guns and other deadly weapons to seek emotional distress damages from the killer in civil lawsuits. If passed, the legislation would put New York in line with 41 other states that already allow non-economic damages when a loved one is killed.

A new bill introduced in the state Senate would allow families of those killed by guns in New York to sue the killer for pain and suffering damages.

New York state is currently only one of nine states that does not allow compensation for non-economic damages in its wrongful death statute. This bill aims to provide a legal recourse for parents, children, siblings and other loved ones for the grief and suffering they sustain as a result of the violent and sudden loss of a child, parent or other close relative.

“This bill will provide desperately needed recourse for families who lose a loved one due to senseless gun violence,” said Senator Jim Gaughran. “It will bring New York’s nearly 150-year old wrongful death statute in line with the rest of the country and allow financial protections to grieving families.

Gaughran, D-Northport, said he hopes to see strong support on the bill in his own conference next session, and even hopes for bipartisan support.

“I don’t even think the NRA could oppose this,” he said.

The bill, introduced on October 25, specifically amends the Estates, Powers and Trusts Law, which currently limits damages for all wrongful death action to economic losses. Gaughran, and the bill’s Assembly sponsor Charles Lavine, hope their legislation will build on recent laws that treat the issue of gun violence as a public health issue.

Bill Sponsor, Sen. Jim Gaughran, D-Northport

Gaughran said the bill will not make firearm manufacturers liable for pain and suffering damages in wrongful death lawsuits. The bill (S.6803) also pertains to the use of other “deadly weapons” such as knives and switchblades. It currently resides in the Senate Rules Committee. The bill is expected to have no fiscal implications for taxpayers.

“For far too long, parents and the families of children have paid an exorbitant emotional price for losing a child to the reckless behavior of gun violence,” Assemblyman Lavine said. “Expanding New York’s law to allow these broken families a small sense of relief by giving them the legal right to financially recover from a devastating loss is a step in the right direction towards regaining their peace by making gun manufacturers accountable.”

The Assembly version of the bill is expected to be introduced by January.