Man wins right to sue in paternity 'fraud' case

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The Independent Online

A businessman from Birmingham has won the right to sue his former lover for £250,000 in damages, claiming she deceived him into believing he was the father of her child.

A businessman from Birmingham has won the right to sue his former lover for £250,000 in damages, claiming she deceived him into believing he was the father of her child.

Mr Justice Stanley Burnton gave permission yesterday for the 53-year-old man to bring the claim under the law of fraud.

At a full trial later in the year the man will ask to be compensated for the cost of bringing up the child. He will also claim for the emotional distress caused by the discovery that he was not the father of the boy, who is 12.

If the High Court rules in his favour, the door will be open for unmarried partners to sue each other over similar lies told during a relationship.

Neither the man nor his former partner can be identified because of a court order protecting the identity of the child.

He alleges that in 1987 he was fraudulently deceived by the defendant into believing that he was the father of the child she was expecting.

Mr Justice Burnton said he had been asked to decide whether the man could sue for deceit in the context of domestic relations, or whether there was no law covering such a case for a cohabiting couple with no intention of marrying.

He said he had decided there was a liability in deceit, but gave the woman permission to appeal after the damages trial.

Lawyers for the man said that a blood test in January last year had proved he was not the child's father. The man's solicitor, who is his wife and also cannot be named, said he was seeking up to £250,000 to cover the eight-year period when he regarded the boy as his son.

The boy's mother, aged 44, who has also married, said she was "disappointed" the case would go to trial. Her defence lawyers said: "We consider it is simply wrong that a man can have a close and loving relationship with a woman for 13 years, and her child for eight years, and then seek to recover every penny he has ever paid out in respect of them."

Although tests have shown that the man, who had a vasectomy operation in 1975, is not the father, the woman says she always believed he was. Her lawyers said the couple and the child were "a happy family for many years".

She plans to enforce a county court action, which came after they parted five years ago, to sell their former family home and pay her £43,000, with interest. In a statement from her solicitors, she said: "We believe that the deceit action is a callous attempt by the claimant to avoid his financial debt to the defendant in respect of the former family home, now standing at over £65,000." She added: "We are confident that after hearing the evidence the judge will find that there was no deceit in this case."

Mr Justice Stanley Burnton will hear the damages claim in London this summer.