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October 1, 2008

A-1158 Wrongful Death



Dear Mayor:

It has been represented to us that the Assembly plans to move the Wrongful Death legislation possibly this month.   Such a move would have a tremendous impact on municipalities and significantly increase taxpayer expenses.

The Wrongful Death proposal will expand survivor recovery to include awards for a broad range of non-economic losses such as mental anguish and emotional pain and suffering. This attempt to broaden the items that could be “recovered” would, in effect, award significantly more money for the same loss. Under current wrongful death law, family members can already collect substantial compensation for actual losses (medical bills, lost income as well as companionship).

The timing of this bill could not be worse as there seems to be no end to demands on the property tax dollar. Property taxpayers are reeling with anxiety over the extreme economic uncertainties, escalating health care costs, spiraling fuel costs, mortgage foreclosures and, continuing increases in food and other necessities.  This proposal could well be the proverbial “straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

After our repeated attempts to exempt local governments subject to the Tort Claims Act from the bill; A-1158, as drafted, will continue to expose municipalities to increased litigation. Moreover, there are real prospects that a cap on damages will not be accepted.

We urge you to contact members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee (click here for list) and personally inform each member of the negative effects of A-1158.  Municipalities will be forced to defend against claims for these damages and may also be required to pay significantly more in damages. Inevitably, the cost of liability insurance premiums will increase. All of these costs will be placed directly on the shoulders of over-burdened property taxpayers and further exacerbate the already highest in the nation property taxes.

A-1158 could do more harm than could ever have been intended. It applies to all governmental entities.

Your prompt attention to this matter is appreciated.


                                                                        Very truly yours,


                                                                        William G. Dressel, Jr.
                                                                        Executive Director



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