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New Jersey Physicians -- Legislative Call to Action

ACT NOW to stop Wrongful Death Expansion

  • 14 January 2008
  • Author: Mike Cooke
  • Number of views: 2270
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Issue
: The New Jersey Legislature continues to threaten consideration of bills that would allow unlimited emotional damages in cases of wrongful death. These bills, S-763/A-1158, passed the Legislature in 2008 by one vote in each chamber, only to be pocket vetoed by Governor Corzine. There is a high risk that the bills are passed again during this “lame duck” session.

Act now to call your NJ State legislators and express your opposition to these bills!

Background:

New Jersey’s current Wrongful Death law provides fair and equitable compensation to families that have suffered harm due to the wrongful death of a loved one. New Jersey courts are consistently generous when interpreting the current law, providing expansive views of the pecuniary damage requirement, especially true in cases involving children.

New Jersey’s current law is working – and working well – 
to ensure justice for its citizens.

Amending the law, as proposed in S-763/A-1158, would take an already liberally-interpreted Wrongful Death Act and create one of the most extreme Acts in the country.

S-763/A-1158 allow for the recovery of unlimited emotional damages in wrongful death cases, which vastly expands the kinds of damages that can be sought and goes far beyond the purpose of wrongful death laws, which is to provide compensation for loss of economic support and other economic damages. The bill creates vaguely-defined and highly-subjective reasons for which damages can be sought with no rationale or standards as to how damages are to be determined.

If enacted, New Jersey would be one of only eight states that do not cap grief damages in wrongful death cases, placing our law well outside of the mainstream and encourage extensive new litigation that will clog New Jersey courts and hurt New Jersey employers and health care providers.

The sweeping scope and vagueness of the bill - combined with a virtual blank check on damage awards - creates opportunities for abuse, invites punitive and unfair treatment of defendants, and encourages novel legal theory to continually expand the types of injury for which compensation can be sought.

Specifically, S-763/A-1158 expands the law as follows:

“Damages may also be recovered hereunder for mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of society and loss of companionship.”

In January of 2008, the Assembly passed the wrongful death expansion by 41-32 and the Senate by 21-11. Governor Corzine vetoed the bill -- but there is no guarantee that he will do so again.

ACT NOW! Go to http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/ and go to “Find Your Legislator” on the left side. Call all three members in your district. Both the Senate and Assembly are in play on this issue – and they need to hear from you!

More information? Report responses? Contact Beverly Lynch, 609/392-7553, [email protected]

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