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Firm claims first victory in contested cavity wall insulation case

Pilkington: Finite number of cavity wall cases

A north-west law firm has won what it believes is the first contested case against installers of faulty cavity wall insulation.

Cavity walls claims have long been seen as a potential area of growth for claimant firms looking for new areas of practice, but the lawyer who ran the case warned that they are not straightforward to run.

Cavity wall insulation is seen as a cost-effective way to improve energy efficiency, reducing heating bills and carbon emissions. But it is not suitable for all houses and incorrectly installed insulation can give rise to problems ranging from damp and condensation, through to serious structural damage or even health risks to those living within the property.

Liverpool-based Pilkington Shaw successfully argued that the claimant’s property was not suitable to receive insulation and that it should never have been installed.

The judge at Cardiff County Court awarded damages of over £6,000, plus interest.

Director Mike Pilkington said the firm was looking to move on to “a raft of other similar lawsuits”.

He explained: “We believe thousands of unfortunate householders across the UK have wrongly had cavity wall insulation fitted, with the potential damage caused getting progressively worse until it is extracted, a process which may cost thousands of pounds.”

However, he told Litigation Futures that considerable legal issues arise in cavity wall claims.

“We have to combat often complete denial that any wrongdoing has occurred. This may include a denial that the claim should attract any damages for stress and inconvenience and an allegation that any claim should be a small claim, and therefore no legal fees should be payable, despite the fact that matters normally take two full days to resolve at trial with an expert called for either side.”

Though cavity wall litigation has been dubbed the ‘new whiplash’ by some, Mr Pilkington said these issues showed they were not.

For one thing, there was a “finite number” of cases. Though insulation was still being installed, the solicitor said it was not “in anything like the numbers it was when government incentives were available”.

Further, he said: “In a cavity wall case, it is possible to demonstrate objectively that the installation should not have been carried out or is defective and that damage has occurred as a result, by using a RICS registered surveying expert.

“In whiplash cases whether a client has suffered injury and to what degree is normally subjective and reliant on the word of the individual client to prove.”