Close Menu

Diageo faces ‘black fungus’ lawsuit

Johnnie Walker owner Diageo could be sued for allegedly devaluing the home of a married couple with the angel’s share vapour emitted from its warehouses in Scotland.

Angel’s share from Diageo’s warehouses in Bonnybridge is alleged to have devalued the Chalmers’ home

Thomas and Gail Chalmers’ house is approximately 350 metres from Diageo’s whisky bond (warehouse) in Bonnybridge, Falkirk.

In 2017, the couple filed a lawsuit against Diageo Scotland for the sum of £40,000 (US$48,389) in the Court of Session in Edinburgh for damages to their property. At the time, the couple alleged that the facility’s “release of ethanol into the atmosphere is a nuisance” and had produced “black fungus” that had damaged their house and outdoor furniture.

The sooty-looking fungus, also known as baudoinia, can bear a resemblance to black mould and feeds off ethanol emissions from whisky distilleries.

The couple also claimed that the “fungus” had created “visible black staining” on their roof, and “discolouration” at a number of properties in the area.

In June 2022, the Chalmers alleged that ethanol vapour released from the bonded warehouses had also caused “black, sooty deposits” that damaged their car, plant pots, a trampoline and a playhouse.

The claim was “strongly” disputed by the drinks giant in 2019, however on 30 June 2023, judge Lady Carmichael found Diageo liable for devaluing the Chalmers’ property.

A Diageo spokesperson told The Spirits Business today (6 July): “We are disappointed in the court’s decision and are considering our options for appeal as we strongly dispute the claims made against us.”

The Chalmers paid £139,950 for the house in 2002, and this was revalued in May 2017 to be worth £190,000-195,000 (US$242,600-248,984).

The defence claimed the ‘value of the house’ has been reduced by ‘about 5% to 10%’ because of the effects of the fungus on properties in that area.

The couple claim to have continuously worked to clean the fungus from the house and the patio, using 16 bottles of bleach a year to clean the back of the house.

Denouncing Diageo as liable for the damage, Lady Carmichael concluded that 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 its face much more than one would normally expect to be the case.”

She also said Diageo was “liable to the pursuers” for legal expenses.

Last year, a resident in Tennessee, US, submitted claims that emissions from the Jack Daniel’s distillery had caused damage to their home.

It looks like you're in Asia, would you like to be redirected to the Drinks Business Asia edition?

Yes, take me to the Asia edition No