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Supreme Court of Denmark

Survivors' claim for compensation for non-pecuniary loss in connection with the death of a relative 

Case no. 200/2010
Judgment 5 May 2011
 

A
and
B
vs.
The Copenhagen Police,
the Regional Public Prosecutor for Copenhagen and Bornholm and
the Public Prosecutor

The High Court's dismissal of survivors' claim against the defendant authorities for compensation for non-pecuniary loss in connection with the death of a relative was partly upheld and partly rescinded and the case was remitted to the High Court for a new trial

During a car chase on 1 April 2003, NN was shot and killed by a police officer. On 20 October 2008, NN's mother and sister, A and B, took out a writ against the Copenhagen Police, the Regional Public Prosecutor for Copenhagen and Bornholm and the Public Prosecutor, respectively, claiming compensation for non-pecuniary loss in connection with the death of NN. The District Court referred the case to the High Court which, after having reserved the issues of cause of action and limitation for a separate hearing, dismissed the defendant authorities, stating that neither A nor B were among the persons entitled to claim compensation under section 26a of the Danish Liability for Damages Act. The case was then referred to the Supreme Court.    

The Supreme Court stated that the case, according to the information received, was assumed to concern the issue of whether A and B were entitled to compensation as a result of the defendant authorities' unlawful infringement of their rights as NN's closest next of kin under Articles 2 and 13 of the European Human Rights Convention. With regard to the Copenhagen Police, the claim was based on the actual killing of NN and section 26a of the Liability for Damages Act, according to which a person who intentionally or by gross negligence causes the death of another person may be ordered to pay compensation to the deceased's closest next of kin.  With regard to the Regional Public Prosecutor and the Public Prosecutor, the claim was based on the handling of the subsequent investigation, as A and B stated that it had been inadequate and flawed, which had led to a separate infringement of their rights as surviving relatives, and that this entitled them to claim compensation under the general Danish rules of law, read with Article 41 of the European Humans Rights Convention. The Supreme Court noted that there was no basis for regarding the issue of whether the surviving relatives fulfil the conditions for compensation under section 26a of the Liabilities for Damages Act as an issue of cause of action. Furthermore, the Supreme Court found that the claim for compensation under section 26a of the Act against the Copenhagen Police was statute-barred, while the claim against the Regional Public Prosecutor and the Public Prosecutor was not.

The Supreme Court upheld the High Court's dismissal of the claim against the Copenhagen Police, rescinded the High Court's judgment regarding the Regional Public Prosecutor for Copenhagen and Bornholm and the Public Prosecutor and remitted this part of the case for a new trial in the High Court.   

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