Case Alert - [2017] EWCA Civ 1916

Court of Appeal rules that cohabitees are entitled to bereavement damages

Section 1 of the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 provides that a tortfeasor must pay damages for the benefit of "dependants" of the deceased. "Dependants" in that context includes persons who have lived with the deceased in the same household for at least 2 years before the death as husband or wife or civil partner ("a 2 years+ cohabitee"). However, Section 1A of the same Act does not provide for bereavement damages to be paid to 2 years+ cohabitees.

The Court of Appeal has now held that that position is incompatible with Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (protection from discrimination). It held that what was material was "the intimacy of a stable and long term personal relationship, whose fracture due to death caused by another's tortious conduct will give rise to grief which ought to be recognised by an award of bereavement damages, and which is equally and analogously present in relationships involving married couples and civil partners and unmarried and unpartnered cohabitees".