Unmarried woman wins legal battle for bereavement damages in ‘historic decision’

Posted By admin - 11th December 2017

Following a landmark Court of Appeal decision, Ms Jakki Smith has succeeded in her battle to help obtain better rights for unmarried couples.

Ms Smith’s partner of 16 years, John Bulloch, died from an infection that was not noticed by medics.  As part of the claim for negligence following Mr Bulloch’s death, Ms Smith claimed bereavement damages but the High Court said that she was not eligible for the payment because she and Mr Bulloch were not married.

The law states that bereavement damages, currently a fixed sum of £12,980.00, must be paid to someone if their spouse or civil partner dies as a result of negligence by a health professional.  While it had previously been recommended by the Law Commission in 2009 that those who cohabit should be entitled to bereavement damages in the same way, the recommendation was never progressed.

Ms Smith appealed the decision and said that she should be awarded bereavement damages because she had lived with Mr Bulloch for over 2 years. The Court of Appeal agreed with Ms Smith and said that the failure to allow the damages for cohabitees was inconsistent with the Human Rights Act.

Ms Smith highlighted that her fight had ‘never been for the money’. She said that it was unfair that her relationship with Mr Bulloch was not viewed in the same way as a marriage or civil partnership.  She said that just because she and John had not said vows and did not wear wedding rings, it did not mean that they were not in a meaningful, committed relationship. Ms Smith’s lawyer said that the ruling was a “historic decision” and was “long overdue”.

Moosa-Duke Solicitors are leading specialists in clinical negligence claims. If you have any concerns regarding the care that you or a family member have received, both by the NHS or privately, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0116 254 7456 so we can advise you further.