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Bereavement damages: Unmarried Chorley woman wins legal fight

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PA

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Jakki Smith and John Bulloch were together for 16 years

A woman has won her legal battle for better rights for unmarried people who lose their long-term partners.

NHS worker Jakki Smith, from Chorley, Lancashire, took the government to court for breaching her human rights in denying her bereavement damages.

A fixed sum of £12,980 is paid out if a person dies as a result of negligence – but only to spouses or civil partners.

Her partner of 16 years, John Bulloch, died aged 66 in 2011 after an infection was missed by medics.

‘Historic decision’

Mr Bulloch, a former 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 allowed Ms Smith’s challenge against a High Court ruling dismissing her claim.

The 59-year-old’s lawyer, Zac Golombeck, said this was an “historic decision” and “long overdue.”

The Law Commission previously recommended co-habiting couples should be eligible for bereavement damages and the government also produced a draft bill in 2009, although it was never progressed, he added.

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PA

Image caption

John Bulloch died in 2011 after an infection was missed by medics

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

Ms Smith and her partner were “totally committed to each other”, he added.

“The Court of Appeal has made clear in their judgment 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 and bring this legislation into the 21st Century. “

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