Crouch End artist denied compensation for tinnitus during building works

A Crouch End artist whose life was “ruined” by severe tinnitus after her neighbour’s noisy home improvements is not entitled to compensation, a judge has ruled.

Sheelagh Fernando, 46, described how she suffered “acoustic shock” from the “immense volume of drilling” coming from the house next door to her Victorian home.

Since the renovation work, she has endured permanent “ringing,” “drilling” and “screaming” in her ears, which makes it hard for her to sleep and has wrecked her ability to paint.

The noise reached up to 101 decibels, similar to the sound of a bulldozer and well above the 85 decibel level which the government says can cause hearing damage.

But Ms Fernando has now been told by an Appeal Court judge that she is not due a payout from her 72-year-old neighbour, Jonathan Bilton.

Sir David Keene said the pensioner could not have foreseen that the noise made by Eastern European contractors might cause Ms Fernando such devastating injury.

The painter had no warning before the workmen started removing Mr Bilton’s chimney breast in November 2009.

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She told the court the contractors used a “big drill” and she was struck by two “blasts” of noise when she was in her kitchen at eight o’clock in the morning.

“All of a sudden, ‘whoosh’, my head was spun to the side and I was facing the opposite wall. My hearing was blown out on both sides”, she said.

“I have flashbacks to that. The noise of the drill was immense.”

In January 2010 Ms Fernando went to her doctor and was diagnosed with tinnitus.

Sir David said there was expert evidence that “it was likely that the tinnitus would not have developed without the events of November 2009.”

Rejecting her appeal, however, he ruled that was “not enough” for her to win her compensation fight.

Outside court afterwards, Ms Fernando said she was devastated at being denied a payout, but vowed to fight on.