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Unmarried Woman’s Legal Victory Shifts Focus on Bereavement Rights

11 Jan 2018

As we have said many times here on our blog, there is a real inequality in the way that the law treats unmarried people, but the victory of a woman over her partner’s passing shows that a change is possibly in the offing.

In the past few weeks, Jakki Smith, a Lancashire lady, won her legal battle for better rights for unmarried people who lose their long-term partners. She took the government to court for breaching her human rights in denying her bereavement damages.

As things currently stand, a fixed sum of £12,980 is paid out if a person dies as a result of negligence – but it only applies to spouses or civil partners.

However, when Ms Smith’s partner of 16 years, John Bulloch, died in 2011 after an infection missed by medics, she decided to fight for her rights.

bereavement rights

Mr Bulloch, who was 66, had a benign tumour on his right foot  removed in August 2011 but fell ill while on holiday in Turkey.

The Court of Appeal allowed Ms Smith’s challenge against a High Court ruling dismissing her claim, with her legal team saying the current legislation was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

They argued the award should be available to anyone who had been in a relationship for at least two years and following the victory her lawyer said the ruling was “long overdue”.

Following the victory, Ms Smith said: “It felt unfair to me because I couldn’t have the bereavement damages. I felt they were saying: ‘You weren’t married, you weren’t bereaved, it didn’t count’ I wanted it to count.”

She won’t get any money from the decision as there is no possibility of a retrospective payment, but said it was a matter of principle and everyone being treated equally.

The victory will now put pressure on the government to consider changing the legislation. There will be many like Jakki Smith believing this can’t come soon enough.

We at Pindoria Solcitors welcome any move, which deals with this issue, as it is now time for the law to adjust to meet the needs of the modern world. Many of those feeling victimised by not having their relationship bonded in law will certainly be buoyant after this decision.