The Independent

Woman sued for lying over father of child

By Robert Verkaik, Legal Affairs Correspondent
The Independent
22 December 2000

A landmark case in which a man is suing his former girlfriend for £250,000 after discovering he is not the father of her child could set a legal precedent in which spouses and partners are liable for damages if they lie to each other.

The Birmingham man, who cannot be named, claims that he was deceived into believing the boy he supported for eight years was his own. He is also asking for compensation for looking after the woman over the same period and for the shock and emotional distress of finding out that he is not the biological father.

Lawyers in the case say that if he wins it could lead to claims for compensation in all kinds of situations where a spouse or partner has deceived another into spending money.

The Birmingham couple met in 1980 and after an eight-year relationship the woman gave birth to a boy. The man claims he treated the child, now aged 12, as his own until the couple separated in 1996, and only then became suspicious that he may not be the boy's father. A DNA test confirmed his suspicions, and resulted in the child's birth certificate being corrected.

Next month Mr Justice Stanley Burnton, sitting in the High Court in London, will rule on whether the man can claim damages.

Harvey McGregor QC, the country's leading expert on damages, who is representing the man, said yesterday he was confident the judge would allow the case to go to a full trial.

But the woman's solicitor, Verity Dobbie, said that her client had never deceived her former partner and claimed that he knew he was not the father of the child 18 months before the relationship ended.

And she asked: "Is it right that a man who has had the love and affection of a child for eight years can then seek to reclaim every penny he has spent on that child?"