Husband's infidelity costs widow £300,000

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The Independent Online

A widow who had claimed £400,000 damages after her husbanddied in a motorcycle accident was yesterday awarded around £100,000 because his infidelity meant their marriage was "unlikely to have survived".

A widow who had claimed £400,000 damages after her husbanddied in a motorcycle accident was yesterday awarded around £100,000 because his infidelity meant their marriage was "unlikely to have survived".

Sadie Dalziel, who did not find out about her husband Jason's affair until after the crash, was given reduced compensation yesterday following a claim by Privilege Insurance that she was only entitled to modest compensation because their 13-month marriage was unlikely to last. She must pay costs after turning down an offer of £140,000 in an out of court settlement.

Deputy Judge Robert Moxon-Browne QC said in the High Court in London: "It is a hard thing to penalise a widow in damages when she herself is utterly blameless, but who faces evidence that her husband had strayed during their short marriage. But it is evidence which I can't ignore."

The insurers of Gary Donald, the other driver in the accident, admitted 80 per cent liability but refused to pay the full £400,000, after discovering that Mr Dalziel's mistress was riding pillion. They also claimed his badly botched attempts at renovating the couple's bathroom proved that he had no intention of making the marriage last.

Mrs Dalziel, 30, from Burham, in Kent, only discovered her husband, a soldier who was due to start a tour of duty in Kosovo, was having an affair with Elizabeth Simpson after the crash in Hull in April 1996. Miss Simpson, who still limps after the accident, claimed to have been unaware her lover was married and said he had proposed to her.

The judge said: "Mr Dalziel is dead now and nothing is to be gained by condemning his behaviour in colourful language . . . suffice now to say that Jason Dalziel cheated on his wife at a time when she was especially vulnerable as she was an expectant mother and then the mother of a very young baby. In doing so he showed scant regard for his marriage vows.

"In the case of a man who could behave like that, there must have been a substantial chance that the marriage would have failed." But he added that he had also taken into consideration the fact that Mrs Dalziel had loved her husband and was committed to the marriage and their daughter, Caris, five.

She told the court she had "worshipped the ground" her husband walked on and that he was a "doting dad". Had he lived she would have stayed with him even after finding out about the affair, she added. At the time of his death she believed he was on a motorcycling holiday with friends.

Her counsel, Colin Nixon, argued that she and her daughter were financially dependent on Mr Dalziel, 25, and were therefore entitled to substantial compensation.

But Mr Donald's counsel, Howard Elgot, said that Mr Dalziel, who had been demoted from Lance Corporal in the Royal Engineers to Sapper following debt problems, was a "wastrel" and a "rogue" and suggested his widow would be better off without him.

His relationship with Miss Simpson began two months before his marriage in March 1995 and he proposed to her eight months later. The court also heard that the motorcyle was neither taxed nor insured and had false number plates. Mr Dalziel had also stopped paying the mortgage on the family home which was about to be reposssessed and by failing to pay the telephone bill had allowed the phone to be cut off. He did, however, have a mobile which he used to call Miss Simpson. His behaviour, said Mr Elgot, was that "of a man who does not wish to stay married". In his ruling the judge praised both the women.

Mrs Dalziel was a "pleasant, straightforward, sensible and obviously honest witness" while Miss Simpson was equally sensible, candid and truthful. She thought she had a relationship which would lead to marriage. "Miss Simpson's evidence showed the depth of the deceased's betrayal of his wife. It had a dramatic effect on the claimant's recovery of damages."

Mrs Dalziel was not in court but her solicitor David Faithful said she was deeply upset by the ruling.