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03 APR 2007

PATERNITY/DECEIT: A v B [2007] EWHC 1246 (QB)

(Queen's Bench Division; Sir John Blofeld; 3 April 2007)

A and B were in a relationship together between 1996 and 2002, during which time they sometimes cohabited. B already had a child from a previous relationship and in 1997 she became pregnant with a second child, and told A that it was his child. B maintained this and insisted that the child was A's on many occasions. A treated the child as his own and paid for holidays, nursery and school fees and many other outgoings associated with the child, and arising from the (presumed) fact of his being the father of the child, for the first five years of the child's life.

In 2002, after the relationship between A and B had broken down and the parties were involved in contact proceedings in the Family Division, B alleged that A was not the father of the child and a paternity test proved that this was the case. A commenced proceedings against B claiming damages for deceit.

(1) The concept of 'paternity fraud' was not unknown to English law. The tort of deceit did apply to domestic relations and the reasoning in P v B [2001] 1 FLR 1041 was approved and followed. The defendant's impecuniosity was irrelevant to whether or not the claim in deceit could proceed. (2) It was not contrary to public policy to award general damages. They would be awarded to A in the sum of £7,500 to reflect the substantial and continuing degree of distress and the deep sense of loss suffered. The fact that A no longer had contact with the child was not relevant to the award. (3) Claims for special damages for holidays and restaurant meals taken by A and B with the child were awarded at 50% to take account of the enjoyment A had in them. Special damages for the sole benefit of the child would not be awarded: McFarlane v Tayside Health Board [2000] 2 AC 59 followed. If there were children in this sort of relationship they had to be cared for, including the necessary expenditure, regardless of biological parentage or knowledge of it. Special damages which were cheques paid by A to B during and after her pregnancy could not be split and allocated between A, B and the child and would not be awarded for this reason and in view of the court's established reluctance to place a financial value on a human relationship.

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