In 2017 in Smith v Lancashire the Court of Appeal held that exclusion of a deceased’s co-habiting partner from entitlement to bereavement damages under s1A of the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 breached European Convention rights. That outcome placed the government under an obligation to amend the Act (detailed in this post back in February). This specific and limited change has just moved closer, with the necessary draft order being approved in the House of Lords last week and expected to take effect soon.Continue reading
This question is at the heart of the Supreme Court’s decision in Four Seasons International Holdings (FSIH) v Brownlie. The fatal car accident, which gave rise to the claim, happened in Egypt but the claimant was an English resident and had incurred losses and expenses related to the incident on returning to England. She issued in England against FSIH, which was based in Canada, and thus had to apply to serve the proceedings outside the jurisdiction. Whether she would be able to do that would turn on where the damage was sustained.
The right to claim damages for loss of financial dependency and for statutory bereavement damages are set out separately in the Fatal Accidents Act 1976. Only those who fall within the categories listed in the Act are eligible. The courts have consistently refused to widen these statutory categories, most recently in Smith v Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which was decided on 8 September 2016.
It is difficult now to see any change here without statutory intervention. That looks quite unlikely, given that the Negligence and Damages Bill – a private member’s Bill in the 2015/16 Parliament that sought to effect changes to the law on fatal claims- simply lapsed without Government support.