For the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on April 5, 2018
On behalf of our member companies that provide more than 1 million jobs in the state and make the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) the largest statewide business association in the country, we respectfully OPPOSE Senate Bill 1766, sponsored by Senator Scutari.
The bill would amend the “damages” section of New Jersey’s Wrongful Death Act (N.J.S.A. 2A:31-1 et seq.) to greatly expand the amount of those damages. Under current law damages are limited to economic or pecuniary damages. The proposed measure greatly expands damages to include such intangibles as mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of society, and loss of companionship.
In response to this expansion in the amount of damages available under the new scheme, insurance companies will be forced to raise their premiums to adjust for the amount of exposure. Thus, employers would face increased premiums for auto insurance, product liability, and general liability. New Jersey employers continue to struggle financially and the increased costs to their business either through increased lawsuits or higher insurance premiums will be difficult to handle.
This legislation would also directly impact New Jersey’s competiveness and affordability by increasing the overall costs of doing business. In our annual Business Outlook Survey released in December, 43% of NJBIA members indicated that while they plan to expand their business operations, 29% plan to expand in another state, and only 14% indicated they would expand in New Jersey.
New Jersey already fairly compensates its residents for the wrongful death of a family member. New Jersey courts have interpreted the current Wrongful Death Act to permit recovery for not only lost income and hospital, medical and funeral expenses incurred for the deceased, but also the pecuniary value of loss of guidance, society, care, and companionship. The current law protects New Jersey residents from financial loss, so NJBIA believes no change is necessary.
We respectfully ask that you vote “no” on this bill.