It has been a long-standing issue that those who lose their spouse through clinical negligence receive a lump sum of £12,980 in bereavement damages, but those who are unmarried that lose their partner are not afforded the same legal rights.
A recent case has seen Jakki Smith win her legal battle to receive bereavement damages following the loss of her partner of 16 years. John Bulloch, Ms Smith’s long-term partner, died as a result of an infected wound from a removed malign tumour, when holidaying in Turkey.
Ms Smith says she was shocked to realise how few rights she had as an unmarried partner. Her claim for bereavement damages was declined at the High Court, on the basis that the Fatal Accidents Act (1976) does not compliment the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) in allotting damages to partners from an un-married relationship following bereavement.
This led to Ms Smith taking the government to court for breaching her human rights, specifically Article 8 of the ECHR which concerns her right to a family life and Article 14 which accused the government of discriminating against her for choosing to live in an unmarried partnership.
Ms Smith believes that the law should reflect modern day relationships which are not so reliant on marriage. Many partners who lose their loved ones in this way are denied the right to accept damages.
Her challenge was allowed by Master of the Rolls and Records of the Chancery of England, the senior of the three judges, which included Lord Justice McCombe and Sir Patrick Elia. They unanimously agreed to dismiss Mr Justice Edis’ previous ruling denying Ms Smith’s claim for bereavement damages.
Mr Justice Edis was of the view that the ECHR’s legislation did not reflect what is written in the Fatal Accidents Act. It states that if death comes as a result of ‘neglect, ’ as in John Bulloch’s case, then any damages they would have received if ‘death had not ensued’ should go to any dependants of the deceased. This includes: