Man alleges he was exposed to toxic fumes from home insulation
Life of family turned upside down as they had to leave their dream home, court told
Man said he paid €4,000 to have the insulation installed in the main attic and sunroom four years ago and the contractor had told him there was “nothing at all in it”. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
A man wept in the High Court while saying the life of his family was “turned upside down” and they had to leave home after being allegedly exposed to fumes and toxic insulation from spray foam insulation installed there.
Patrick Duffy claims he was exposed to fumes and toxic chemicals and his family had to leave the “dream home” near the sea he had built in Co Donegal because they did not feel safe there.
The family now live in a mobile home, the court heard. “The insulation was my idea. If I had not got the insulation, then we would still be healthy,” he told Mr Justice Kevin Cross.
Opening the case, Richard Lyons SC, with Miriam Reilly SC, said their case was that a “very noxious chemical” linked to the Bhopal disaster (a 1984 gas leak tragedy at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, resulting in more than 3,700 deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries) – was allegedly used in the spray foam insulation.
Counsel said Mr Duffy suffered damage to the airway tract and now coughs constantly and all three in the family had since became “incredibly sensitised” to certain products. “He has lost his home, his job and his health. There was a very happy family life before this happened.”
Mr Duffy told the court he, his wife Anita and their young daughter “now live in a bubble” as they have become sensitised to other products and need to avoid other people.
He said he paid €4,000 to have the insulation installed in the main attic and sunroom four years ago and the contractor had told him there was “nothing at all in it”.
“I asked him is it safe and he said it was breathable, does not give off gas and it was the best product. He said it was the best on the market and was 100 per cent safe.”
After the insulation was put in, there was a strong smell and the contractor told him to leave the windows open, he said. The next morning, Mr Duffy said he had a sore throat, sore eyes and a tight chest and thought he had a cold. His wife and their toddler daughter had the same complaints, he said. Three days later, he said he phoned the contractor as there was still a pungent smell and he later visited the doctor. Their daughter also ended up in hospital, he said.
The family had moved to a relative’s holiday home for a year before moving into a mobile home and the house Mr Duffy built was sold last year, the court was told.
Patrick Duffy (45), Meenderryowen, Annagry, Co Donegal, has sued Brendan McGee trading as McGee Insulation Services, Largenreach, Downings, Letterkenny, who was responsible for the installation and the application of spray foam insulation at the family home on February 18th, 2016. He has also sued GMS Insulations Ltd, Legga, Moyne, Co Longford, which imports and supplies spray foam insulation material. The insulation, it is claimed, was imported from outside the EU by GMS Insulations who supplied it to McGee Insulation.
It is claimed Mr McGee reassured Mr Duffy it was safe to remain in his home during the course of the installation process and immediately afterwards.
It is further claimed Mr Duffy was informed the product was entirely safe and did not give off any fumes. It is claimed he was exposed to toxic chemicals. The claims are denied by both defendants. Mr McGee also pleads contributory negligence on the part of Mr Duffy and claims Mr Duffy was advised to stay away from the house during the installation. GMS Insulations contends, if Mr Duffy did suffer the alleged injuries, it bears no liability in law.
The case before Mr Justice Kevin Cross continues on Thursday.