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Couple wins right to sue Diageo over ‘angel’s share’

Diageo is set to be sued by a couple who claim that emissions from its Bonnybridge whisky bond have devalued their home.

The case, which is being made by Thomas and Gail Chalmers outlined how the couple have fought off a bid by Diageo to have the action dismissed and can now proceed with pursuing damages action against the drinks company.

According to reports from STV, the Chalmers claim that the emissions of ethanol from whisky casks – often referred to as the angel’s share – released from Diageo’s whisky bond at the firm’s premises in Bonnybridge in Stirling, have resulted in black, sooty staining at the Chalmers’ property.

During the process of whisky ageing, the ‘angel’s share’ escapes from the wooden barrels and encourages the development of a dark fungus.  

The Chalmers originally raised an action at the Court of Session in Edinburgh against Diageo Scotland seeking £40,000 in damages however Diageo has contested the action but a move to have it dismissed was recently rejected.

Speaking about the issue, the judge overseeing the case, Lady Carmichael, explained that the Chalmers claim 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 Diageo had maintained at a hearing before the judge that there was in fact no basis upon which the court could decide that the alleged nuisance was substantial.

However, Carmichael revealed: “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 stood at approximately £190,000 to £195,000 but insisted that “the value of the house has been reduced by about 5-10% because of the effects of the fungus on properties in that area”.

The Chalmers outlined how they carry out cleaning work on the house, its patio as well as its sundeck but, according to Chalmers, he is on his third power washer and has 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 admitted that 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.”

Responding to the case brought against the drinks giant, a Diageo spokesperson told local press: “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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