News | Legal News

01 December 2017

Landmark ruling on bereavement damages for unmarried couples

An unmarried woman who lost her partner of 16 years has won a landmark battle for greater legal recognition.

Jakki Smith, 59, challenged an earlier ruling that she was unable to claim bereavement damages after her 66-year-old partner died in 2011, resulting from an infection that had been missed by the NHS.

Ms Smith, an NHS worker from Chorley in Lancashire, has always claimed the decision breaches her human rights.

In September 2016, the High Court ruled that she would not be entitled to a sum paid out to spouses of £11,800, which is paid if a person dies as a result of negligence.

This figure today is £12,980.

In his ruling at the time, Mr Justice Edis said there was no compatibility between the 1976 Fatal Accidents Act and Ms Smith's Convention rights, saying he had no power to intervene.  He did add that the existing law is in need of reform.

However, Sir Terence Etherton - England's master of rolls - Lord Justice McCombe and Sir Patrick Elias set aside Mr Edis' ruling on Tuesday at the Court of Appeal.

Ms Smith, who was not in court, made a statement, saying: "John and I had planned a life together, we were in it for the long run and the fact that our bond wasn't recognised, simply because we hadn't chosen to marry, was very upsetting.

"That's why I'm over the moon with the court's decision and I hope that the change in law will have a positive impact on other people who, for whatever reason, choose not to marry."

Claire Filer

Claire Filer

Tel: 01753 279067

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