31 January, 2008
A man has received Bereavement Damages following the death of his long term partner despite the fact that he died before the Civil Partnership Act came into force.
Angelo Athiade died in 2003 when his motor cycle collided with a milk float. The driver of the milk float admitted liability. The Fatal Accidents Act allows children and married spouses of the deceased to claim Bereavement Damages. The Act was amended by the Civil Partnership Act 2004 to give the same rights to those who had entered into a Civil Partnership as were formerly enjoyed by married partners. Mr Athiade and his partner Mr Burke had been partners for fourteen years. It was argued that the only reason they had not entered into a Civil Partnership was because Mr Athiade had died before the Act came into effect.
Lawyers for Mr Burke also argued that between 1999 and 2004 the Human Rights Act had changed the position and that during that period in many areas of the law the Courts had interpreted "co-habiting as man and wife" to include same gender couples. It was argued that the Fatal Accidents Act discriminated against Mr Burke. The Court agreed and awarded £30K in damages to Mr Burke.
The case is notable for the rare application of the Human Rights Act in the motor claims arena but more importantly for the extending of the entitlement to damages under the Fatal Accidents Act in effect retrospectively.