New York Wrongful Death Laws

The New York Wrongful Death Statute can be found in the Estate Powers and Trust Law (EPTL), Article 5, Part 4, EPTL 213-217.  Pursuant to the Act, the personal representative of the estate has the right to sue for pecuniary loss on behalf of the distributees. The amount of damages determined by a court are what it deems to be fair and just compensation for pecuniary injuries resulting from the decedent’s death. Damages include reasonable expenses for medical aid, nursing, and funeral expenses, “in addition to every other lawful element.”  Punitive damages, designed to punish the defendant in cases of recklessness or depravity, are allowed.

Except where such an action is statutorily required to be brought only in the court of claims, this act shall be applicable to all wrongful death actions brought against a public authority or public benefit corporation, notwithstanding any inconsistent provisions of law, general, special or local, or any limitation contained in the provisions of any city charter. A wrongful death action against a public authority or public benefit corporation shall be commenced within two years of the happening of the death[i].

No wrongful death action against a public authority or public benefit corporation shall be commenced unless a notice of claim has been served on the authority or corporation in accordance with the provisions of section fifty-e of the general municipal law[ii].

Further, if in an action to recover damages for personal injury, injury to property or wrongful death, or an action brought by the individual who committed a crime against the victim of the crime, and such action or claim is commenced or continued by a plaintiff or a counterclaim, a defense or a cross claim is commenced or continued by a defendant and is found, at any time during the proceedings or upon judgment, to be frivolous by the court, the court shall award to the successful party costs and reasonable attorney’s fees not exceeding ten thousand dollars.

In such cases, the costs and fees awarded shall be assessed either against the party bringing the action, claim, cross claim, defense or counterclaim or against the attorney for such party, or against both, as may be determined by the court, based upon the circumstances of the case. Such costs and fees shall be in addition to any other judgment awarded to the successful party.

However, in order to find the action, claim, counterclaim, defense or cross claim to be frivolous, the court must find one or more of the following:

(i) the action, claim, counterclaim, defense or cross claim was commenced, used or continued in bad faith, solely to delay or prolong the resolution of the litigation or to harass or maliciously injure another;

(ii) the action, claim, counterclaim, defense or cross claim was commenced or continued in bad faith without any reasonable basis in law or fact and could not be supported by a good faith argument for an extension, modification or reversal of existing law. If the action, claim, counterclaim, defense or cross claim was promptly discontinued when the party or the attorney learned or should have learned that the action, claim, counterclaim, defense or cross claim lacked such a reasonable basis, the court may find that the party or the attorney did not act in bad faith[iii].

[i] NY CLS Pub A § 2981

[ii] NY CLS Pub A § 2980

[iii] NY CLS CPLR § 8303-a


Inside New York Wrongful Death Laws