Unmarried Partner wins the Right to Bereavement Damages

Article

07 December, 2017

Smith v (1) Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (2) Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust (3) Secretary of State for Justice [2016] EWHC 2208 (QB)

A woman has successfully fought for the right for unmarried persons to receive bereavement damages after her partner of 16 years died as a result of negligence in 2011.

A fixed sum of £12,890 is paid out to spouses or civil partners if a person dies as a result of negligence. When Ms Smith's partner died she found that she was not eligible for the payment because she had not been married to Mr Bulloch.

Ms Smith appealed under the Human Rights Act, arguing that she had been discriminated against because she was unmarried and was being denied her right to a family life, relying on articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In Court, it was argued that the award should be available to anyone who had been in a relationship for at least two years.

Forbes comment

This is a landmark ruling for cohabitees. Unfortunately, Ms Smith will not financially benefit from the decision as it is not possible to receive a retrospective payment. However, going forward the case sets a precedent and will allow other unmarried couples to be able to claim the payment. It is likely that the government will now put in place legislation to formally change the law.

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