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Wind damage did not amount to storm, says sheriff

11 August 2006

Although wind strength alone could constitute a "storm" for the purposes of insurance cover, simply stating the damage caused does not make a relevant case for a claim, according to a new sheriff court decision.

Sheriff Principal Edward Bowen QC at Edinburgh gave this ruling in refusing an appeal by building subcontractors W F Price (Roofing) Ltd, who wanted their principal contractors Balfour Beatty Construction to make an insurance claim after a partly built roof at a site in Livingston was damaged on the night of 7-8 May 2003. Under the contract Price were liable for the cost of restoring damaged work unless the damage was caused by certain perils including "storm".

The sheriff principal said that the fact that wind speeds on the night in question did not reach storm force levels on the Beaufort scale was a factor to be taken into account, but not conclusive. His main criticism of Price's case was that it concentrated more on the nature and location of the building as exposed to the wind, and said little about the weather conditions at the time.

"The issue is whether the weather conditions constituted one of the specified perils, and the word storm has to be interpreted in the context in which it appears, namely alongside the words 'tempest' and 'flood'", he said. On previous case law, "'storm' requires atmospheric violence of an extreme or at least unusual condition. I do not consider that one could reach that conclusion simply from examination of a single item, or indeed confined area, of damage".

Whilst it might be possible to look at anything blown over or damaged by wind and describe it as "storm damage", such an approach would not be correct, he ruled. "Very little is said about weather conditions apart from the fact that the wind came from a south westerly direction and that 'packs of sheets on the west elevation were particularly exposed'. I do not consider that these amended pleadings would provide a basis for the leading of relevant evidence to establish that the specified peril of 'storm' existed."

The sheriff principal's decision can be read at http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/opinions/A988_05.html .