‘They didn’t warn me what could happen’ is a common complaint, but a recent case shows that a failure to give a warning about a potential issue does not necessarily mean that there are grounds for bringing legal action.

The case involved a manufacturer of fire extinguishers, from whom a powder-type extinguisher was bought and installed in a church. Vandals entered the church and discharged the extinguisher, causing a considerable mess.

The result was that the church had to undertake extensive cleaning. The church’s insurance company paid for this and then claimed against the manufacturer of the fire extinguisher on the ground that it had failed to inform its customer of the damage that would result if it were discharged. The insurer claimed this was negligent.

The insurer’s case failed on the basis that even if the customer had been informed of the consequences of discharging the equipment, the extinguisher would have been bought and installed anyway. The failure to inform the customer was therefore not part of the ‘chain of causation’ of the damage caused by the powder.

Claims can only be brought in circumstances such as this when the action or inaction is instrumental in causing the loss.

Insurance companies generally seek to avoid paying out on claims, or to recover damages already paid out, wherever possible. If you are concerned about the wording of your insurance policy, we can advise you.