Landmark Ruling on Bereavement Damages

A woman from Chorley, Lancashire has won her battle for better rights for unmarried/cohabiting people who lose their partners.

Ms Jakki Smith lost her long term partner of 16 years in 2011 after medics missed an infection. A fixed sum is paid out to the partner if a person dies as a result of negligence however this is only the case if married or civil partners.

As Ms Smith was not married under current laws she was not entitled to bereavement damages. She took the government to court for breaching her human rights. She then took the case to The Court of Appeal, to challenge the High Court’s decision.

The Court of Appeal allowed Ms Smith’s challenge against the High Court ruling. The ruling has been described as an “historic decision” and had been “long overdue”.

The Law Commission has previously recommended that co-habiting couples should be eligible for bereavement damages, with the government also producing a draft bill in 2009 stating the same although it was never progressed.


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