May 11, 2021

Volume XI, Number 131


May 10, 2021

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Wrongful Death Legislative Expansion Proposed in New Jersey Senate

On April 5th, the New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee pushed forward Senate Bill S-1766, legislation which would expand the state’s wrongful death statute to allow for recovery of damages from “mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of society and loss of companionship.” Currently, the survivors who lost a loved one cannot be compensated for such emotional loss.

The Bill, introduced by New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Nicholas P. Scutari, would eliminate the restriction in the current wrongful death statute which instructs that jurors are not to “consider any emotional distress, anguish, or grief the survivors may have suffered as a result of the decedent’s death, or any loss of emotional satisfaction the survivors may have derived from the society and companionship of the decedent.”

Under the present New Jersey wrongful death law, damages are recoverable for “pecuniary/economic loss” only, which is the amount of money lost by a dependent when the support person dies, as well as the hospital, medical, and funeral expenses incurred from the deceased. Financial loss may also be defined, under current law, as “the reasonable value of the services, assistance, care, training, guidance, advice, counsel and companionship the survivors would have received from the decedent…”

The proposed law would expand damages to include “mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of society, and loss of companionship.” This expansion is significant as it reflects the losses naturally suffered by a human being who loses a loved one such as a child, parent, or spouse.

Families whose loved ones have suffered and died will no longer be pigeonholed to only seeking damages from the loss of actual and future financial losses from the deceased. With this new legislation including emotional distress, anguish, or grief, there would be no constraints put onto the jury to meet or not exceed a certain predetermined number. Pecuniary/economic loss of a decedent is a figure that is calculated and determined prior to trial. Emotional damages are not constricted to an actuarial determination, and thus are only determined by the specific jury on trial once they have examined the evidence of the case.

Now that Bill S-1766 has passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee, it still needs to be approved by both the Senate, and then go to Governor Murphy’s office for signature. 

COPYRIGHT © 2021, STARK & STARKNational Law Review, Volume VIII, Number 122



About this Author

 Denise Mariani, Stark Law Firm, Lawrenceville, New Jersey, Nursing Home Liabilities, Patient Arbitration Lawyer

Denise Mariani is a Shareholder and Chair of the Nursing Home Negligence litigation group. For over 20 years, she has fought tirelessly to defend the rights of those who have been injured or killed through the negligence of others. As the Chair of the Nursing Home Negligence litigation group, Ms. Mariani has found her passion representing the families of residents and patients who, through negligence or abuse, have died or been seriously injured in a long-term care facility.