Couple win right to sue Diageo over ‘angel’s share’ fungus

Soot stained – houses opposite the bonded warehouses at Dumbuck in Dumbarton.

By Lucy Ashton

A couple who claim their home has been devalued because of the “angel’s share” from a nearby whisky bond have fought off a bid by a drinks giant to have the action dismissed.

Thomas and Gail Chalmers are pursuing a damages action against Diageo, who formerly owned Strathleven Bonded Warehouses in Dumbarton,  maintaining that the emission of ethanol from the firm’s premises in Bonnybridge, in Stirling, amounts to a nuisance and results in black, sooty staining at their nearby property.

There have been similar complaints of this situation arising near the Chivas site at Dumbuck and the Auchentoshan warehouses off the A82 at Old Kilpatrick.

Whisky is matured in casks at the bonded warehouse and during the process ethanol vapour – the angel’s share – escapes and encourages the development of a fungus, the couple claim.

The couple, of Woodlea Gardens, in Bonnybridge,  originally raised an action at the Court of Session in Edinburgh against Diageo Scotland seeking pounds 40,000 damages.

The firm is contesting the action but a move to have it dismissed was rejected by Lady Carmichael.

The judge said: “Mr and Mrs Chalmers aver that the emission of ethanol vapour from Diageo’s bonded warehouses amounts to a nuisance. They say their house is affected by black sooty deposits or staining caused by Baudoinia.”

Lawyers acting for the firm had maintained at a hearing before the judge that there was no basis on which the court could decide that the alleged nuisance was substantial.

Lady Carmichael said: “The averments of damage here are sufficient to permit inquiry. They include a number  of allegations about, in particular,  a need to clean property to an extent that is on the face of it much more than one would normally expect to be the case.”

The couple said in the action that the fungus covers their house and outdoor property and they have suffered a reduction in the value of their home.

They originally bought the new build property in 2002 for £139,500 and in May 2017 its market value was about pounds £190,000 to £195,000.

But they said: “The value of the house has been reduced by about five to 10% because of the effects of the fungus on properties in that area.”

They also carry out cleaning work to the house, patio and sundeck. Mr Chalmers was said to be on his third power washer. He also had to paint the garden fence at regular intervals but is now physically unable to continue with such work because of a back condition.

Lady Carmichael said she would allow a hearing of evidence in the case and added: “On the face of matters this is a case that requires the resolution of issues of fact on the basis of disputed evidence from skilled witnesses on identifiable and discrete issues.”

A Diageo spokesperson said: “We are disappointed in the court’s decision and are considering our options for appeal as we strongly dispute the claims made against us.”

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