Woman wins landmark law case for unmarried couples

Jakki Smith with her partner of 16 years John Bulloch
Jakki Smith with her partner of 16 years John Bulloch
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A Chorley woman has won her landmark battle for greater legal recognition for unmarried couples who suffer bereavement.

Jakki Smith, who lost her partner of 16 years in October 2011, argued that her inability to claim bereavement damages was a breach of her human rights.

The 59-year-old NHS worker discovered she was not entitled to the sum of £11,800, which is paid out if a person dies as a result of negligence – but only to spouses or civil partners – after 66-year-old John Bulloch died after an infection was missed.

Mr Bulloch, a former Preston prison governor, underwent the removal of a benign tumour on his right foot in August 2011 and fell ill while on holiday in Turkey.

The Court of Appeal yesterday allowed her challenge against a High Court ruling dismissing her claim.

Zak Golombeck, of law firm Slater and Gordon, who represented Ms Smith, said: “This is an historic decision, and one that is long overdue.

The Law Commission has previously recommended that cohabiting couples should be eligible for bereavement damages.

“The way we live is changing. Couples are choosing not to marry but this does not detract from the bond they have.

“My client had been with her partner, John, for 16 years and they were totally committed to each other.

“The Court of Appeal have made clear in their judgement that Jakki and John’s relationship was equal in every respect to a marriage in terms of love, loyalty and commitment. We hope that Parliament will now rectify the incompatibility.”