Lawyers win compensation for bereaved gay man

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

A law firm that specialises in cases involving motorcycles has won a £30,000 settlement for the same-sex partner of a man killed in an accident.

White Dalton Motorcycle solicitors successfully argued in court that the Civil Partnership Act meant that David Burke was entitled to a dependency claim and the statutory bereavement claim after the death of his partner.

Nick Routh, a partner at White Dalton Motorcycle Solicitors, said: “The general elements of the claim were not large: £5,500 at most.

“However, there were two further significant elements normally claimable under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976: a dependency claim and the statutory bereavement claim which presently amounts to £10,000.

“But for both these to be allowed, Mr Burke and Mr Athaide had to be regarded as a co-habiting couple and, according to the Fatal Accidents Act, this required them to be living together as husband and wife.

“Prior to the Human Rights Act 1998, the English courts strictly interpreted ‘husband and wife’ as applying to different gender couples. Unfortunately Mr Burke was neither a husband nor a wife by this definition.

“However, following the Human Rights Act, it was our view that the position had changed, as would later be confirmed by the Civil Partnership Act 2004.

“Between 1999 and 2004, the period of Mr Burke’s bereavement, some courts started interpreting the phrase ‘co-habiting as man and wife’ to include same gender couples.

“There was no specific case law dealing with the Fatal Accidents Act but we believed that the court should adopt the liberal interpretation and it was on this basis that we represented Mr Burke.”

The case was eventually settled in November 2007, more than four years later, with Mr Burke receiving in excess of £30,000.

“It’s been a long road to justice but our view has now been upheld,” said Mr Routh.

“While the money can’t replace Mr Burke’s loss, he would probably have received less than £4,000 if the dependency matter had gone the other way in court.

“We were always confident that the court would come to the correct decision and the settlement represents a proper court outcome.

“The simple fact is that the Fatal Accidents Act, until the Civil Partnership Act, discriminated against same gender couples.

“However, we’ve now established that for those with a potential claim from between 1999 and 2004, there is at least some hope: good may come out of what has been a tragic event for Mr Burke.”

Mr Burke lost his same-sex partner of 14 years, Mr Athaide, on August 26, 2003, following a road traffic collision between a milk float and Mr Athaide’s motorcycle.

He was pronounced dead on arrival at the Royal London Hospital.