- Claimant claimed damage to her property as a result of poor standard of installation of cavity wall insulation. Claimant’s case being that the installation was so poor that her property suffered significant damp, requiring removal of the CWI, reinstatement of the property internally and externally.
- Claimant’s case supported by expert evidence.
In written judgment handed down on 18th January 2021, the Claimant’s expert evidence was described by HHJ Saffman as being “unimpressive”, and “troubling”’.
Extracts from Judgment of HHJ Saffman:
- In this case I have to say that I did not find Mr Hodgson to be an impressive witness. I have recorded at length from paragraph 70 to 129 above his oral evidence. In my view, that section of this judgment only has to be reread to identify the areas where Mr Hodgson’s evidence was troubling. I set out some of those below but my observations are not exhaustive.
- It was troubling that a significant plank of the Claimant’s case relates firstly to the impedance of evaporation and secondly, penetrating damp caused by the transfer of moisture over the surface of Isothane in the cavity but that neither appear in the report or any addendum notwithstanding that the need to do so is likely to have become obvious following [previous case].
- It is equally troubling that Mr Hodgson’s report contains the various obvious errors. There is the wholly inappropriate reference to saturation and impregnation of Isothane notwithstanding that the inappropriateness of those expressions was obvious, if not before Bibi, then certainly after it. Additionally,there are the errors which I enumerate in paragraph 88 which have not been corrected. Even if these latter were corrected I would be troubled by the fact that Mr Hodgson ever thought that a cavity needed to be no less than 50mm in width for the insertion of Isothane or that Isothane was not suitable for installation in uneven walls when that is quite manifestly not the case. Also of concern was his reference to cracks. When challenged about these it seems that in fact he was referring to hairline cracks but these as a fact do not contraindicate the installation of Isothane. In the same vein, in his report he complained of the absence of cavity brushes when it is conceded that these are not needed. And of course, his report refers to there being no omitted areas when manifestly the basement was omitted.
- It is equally troubling that his report makes no mention of black mould anywhere on the upper floors except to say that none was detected but that in his oral evidence, suddenly, he recalls (from a visit 11 months earlier) that there was black mould in a wardrobe on the upper floors. It is also troubling that no photograph was taken of that mould notwithstanding that Mr Hodgson recognises that his practice was to photograph areas displaying mould.
- His evidence in relation to the necessity for a DPC was equally troubling. I do not think that it can be said that the BBA certificate makes it clear that Isothane cannot be installed where there is no DPC or a defective one. In the end, Mr Hodgson seemed to me to impliedly accept that when he stated that following a meeting in 2015 the BBA had sent out a letter to their accredited contractors to tell them that an effective DPC must be in place before Isothane was installed. I refer to this paragraph 116 above. It is extraordinary that the existence of such a letter should only have come to the attention of the court during the course of his oral evidence and after he had been carefully taken through all the documents which he suggested indicated that a DPC was necessary but which in fact did not do so. It is equally extraordinary that the latter has not been produced.
- Even his evidence concerning voids lacked a certain logicality. They were the basis of his assertion that water can track across Isothane at the bottom of a void to the inner leaf. But the only voids that he has found with the borescope are at the bottom of the cavity where there is little, if any, Isothane.
- There was equally some illogicality in my view about his concern relation to debris in the cavity where such debris appeared to be in areas which lacked Isothane. Equally, I was not convinced by his evidence as to the use to which a thermal imaging camera can be put. I do not think that it could be seriously doubted that such a camera simply measures heat radiating from a surface and that in those circumstances it can only be a possible pointer to the existence of areas which may be damp but it does not detect damp itself.
- In relation to the mode in which a damp meter should be used, Mr Hodgson was very clear that search mode was reliable but really one only has to read the manufacturer’s instruction manual to which I refer in paragraph 55. That states that measure mode readings are “precise and specific”. Search mode readings are ideal for making rapid surveys and to pinpoint areas of concern that may justify more extensive investigation. They are an alternative to measure mode when measure mode is impractical. All this is not suggestive of search mode being as accurate as measure mode.
Claim for £203,500 rejected and Claimant awarded nominal damages only of £500 to reflect the fact there were voids in the cavity.
Claimant’s expert conceded, in evidence:
- His description of how damage occurred was completely wrong
- Reference to omitted areas was wrong
- It is wrong to say that Isothane cannot be used in uneven cavities
- It is wrong to say the cavity must be at least 50mm
- It is wrong to say there is any requirement to insert cavity brushes
- There is nothing in Building Regulations requiring a DPC to be present in cavity walls (it was conceded that LABC and KIWA specifically allow installation without a DPC)
- It is wrong to say that all voids lead to condensation
- A number of his costings in the schedule of loss were not reliable
The use of standard allegations in such cases cannot continue. The concessions made by this expert in relation to allegations of breach and unreliable costings on quantum present Claimant’s with significant difficulties.
QBE/Plexus Law were represented by Lucas Fear-Segal of 2TG.
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