Dorset Man Wins Payout For Loss Of 'Houseproud' Wife

24 July 2014, 13:06 | Updated: 24 July 2014, 13:09

A husband from Dorset has won High Court damages of more than £600,000 for the loss of his "extremely houseproud wife''.

A judge described Ian Knauer, from Gillingham, and his late wife Sally, a mother of three, as "an old fashioned couple''.

The division of labour between the couple "was as it might have been in the 1950s,'' said Mr Justice Bean, sitting in London.

The judge assessed Mr Knauer, 54, should receive total damages of #647,840, the bulk of which is for the "loss of services'' of his wife. The couple's sons are now aged 22, 20 and 16.

The damages are to be paid by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). Mrs Knauer died young, at the age of 46, as a result of exposure to asbestos at Guy's Marsh Prison, Shaftesbury, Dorset, while employed as an administrator between 1997-2007.

The judge said the prison had many old buildings containing asbestos and she contracted mesothelioma, a "hideous and incurable disease causing appalling suffering'', and died on August 28, 2009 .

The judge said the MoJ at first denied liability until the exchange of witness statements, when liability was admitted, but the MoJ contested how much Mr Knauer should receive in damages.

Referring to the level to which Mr Knauer depended on his wife, the judge said: "Mr and Mrs Knauer were an old-fashioned couple, in the sense that the division of labour in their household was as it might have been in the 1950s.

"Mrs Knauer managed the household. She cleaned, cooked, changed the beds, laundered and ironed clothes, did the shopping and walked the dogs.

"In addition she decorated the house when necessary, and tended to the garden.''

The judge said Mr Knauer, a business development manager for a company owning public houses, "did the occasional tasks such as bathroom repairs but little more than that''.

When deciding how much to compensate the husband for his "dependency on the services'' of his late wife, the judge said he accepted Mr Knauer's evidence that Mrs Knauer "was extremely houseproud and would spend three hours on these tasks on a typical weekday and more than that on Saturdays and Sundays''.

The judge said: "It may be that the figure of 20 hours is if anything an underestimate of the time she spent.''

The judge specifically awarded Mr Knauer £88,160 for "past services dependency'' and £329,241 for "future services dependency''.