New law letting families sue for grief brings comfort to family of 2-year-old killed in crash | Local News

Nothing will bring her beloved 2-year-old granddaughter Raelynn Huber back, but Bernadette Smith of Lockport said her family is nonetheless grateful for a new law that was passed Friday in both houses of the New York State Legislature that updates the rights of family members. in wrongful death lawsuits.

Courtesy of Bernadette Smith

Raelynn was killed in a two-car collision on May 21 at Niagara Falls Boulevard and Sy Road in Wheatfield, in which her mother and Raelynn’s infant sister survived. Smith said that, when it comes to pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit in New York State, the current law is antiquated.

“The current law in New York State for wrongful death allows you to seek damages and reparation for a wrongful death, but the emphasis or focus is really on the decedent’s income and whoever was relying on them at the time (of death),” Smith said in a telephone interview with The Buffalo News the night before an amended bill was passed in both the state Senate and Assembly.

A spokesman in the office of Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan, a co-sponsor of the bill in the Senate, said via email Friday that “the bill makes several amendments to the New York State Estates, Powers and Trusts law governing the rights of members of a family resulting from wrongful act.” , neglect or default causing death of a decedent. “

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Among the changes, it would allow courts to consider emotional loss and grief when compensating bereaved close family members who have lost a loved one as a result of negligence.

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“So, as it stands right now, if, for example, you’re 2 and don’t have a job, there’s no consideration for what you would have done in your life, for what you could have done in your life, the Suffering, the loss of comfort, the grief that your family would have, “Smith said.

“It’s only really simply based on your conscious human suffering at the time and your monetary value, how much money you were making and who was relying on you for income,” she added.

“Nothing will bring back Rae, and we have to accept and adjust to the reality that we will not have the opportunity to see her grow up, feel her hugs, hear her songs, see her smile, or fulfill her destiny,” Smith said. in a follow-up email.

“Although we can’t imagine life without this sweet girl, we are sincerely grateful that the New York State legislators put this bill up for a vote this session,” she added.

Smith described her late granddaughter as “whimsical” and said she loved to dance to any kind of music.

“She loved trucks, big trucks. She would try to get them to honk when they would go by her. Her mom and dad would take her and her sister for walks every evening. As the trucks went by, they taught her how to do. The ‘honk it’ with her arms. She really liked motorcycles or the loud stuff that a 2-year-old might typically be a little concerned about. She actually really thrived on that, “Smith said.

Smith is the mother of Kathlyn P. Ventura, 29, of North Tonawanda, Raelynn’s mother. Raelynn’s father is Cody Huber. Ventura was driving eastbound in a Mitsubishi when the vehicle got involved in an accident with a northbound Honda driven by Jose M. Lazatin, 71, of Niagara Falls.

Meanwhile, the bill passed by the Legislature is waiting to be signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Smith noted that New York and Alabama are the only states that do not allow grieving families to sue for grief in court.


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