Permanent Injury: Industrial Court Faults IBEDC, NELMC For Negligence, Orders Firms to pay Ex-Staff Onifade Timothy N150 Million Damages Within 30 days
Ibadan – His Lordship, Hon. Justice Dele Peters of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, sitting in Ibadan, Oyo state, on Tuesday 19th March 2019 in a judgment faulted Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company Plc and Nigerian Electricity Liability Management Company Ltd (1st and 2nd defendants)for negligence, ordered firms to pay ex-staff Onifade Timothy (claimant) the sum of One Hundred and Fifty Million Naira only (N150,000,000) as damages for the permanent injury suffered as a result of the negligence and N200,000.00 cost of action within 30 days.
The court held that for all intents and practical purposes, the Claimant will forever be dependent on somebody virtually 24 hours a day and seven days a week and the appearance of the Claimant at trial was one of a sorry state.
By his Amended General Form of Complaint & Statement of Facts filed, the Claimant sought against the Defendants among others; N50,000,000.00, Cost of pains suffered, burnt, serious bodily injuries and amputation of hands N50,000,000.00 likewise, Loss of enjoyment of life amenities at N250,000,000.00 (Two Hundred and Fifty Million Naira), and Permanent disability of N500,000,000.00 (Five Hundred Million Naira) damages.
The Claimant was a staff of the old and defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) the unbundling of which company led to coming into being of different companies to take over different responsibilities and functions of the PHCN. On 3/11/10, the Claimant along with other staff was mandated to close up power along Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway under 11KVA feeder. Necessary permit and approvals having been given, Claimant commenced work as customary.
However suddenly, electricity which had been turned off the feeder was restored resulting in electric shock to the Claimant. First aid treatment was administered on the Claimant. His 2 arms were subsequently amputated.
Claimant remained in the services of the Defendants until when his employment was terminated with effect from 31/10/13 by a letter dated 21/10/13. According to the Claimant, all his terminal benefits were paid but he was not paid any compensation for the injury he sustained as a result of the incident of 3/11/10. This action is essentially to claim damages for negligence of the Defendants respecting the injury of the Claimant.
The 2nd Defendant- Nigerian Electricity Liability Management Company Ltd filed a statement of defence and sought against the Claimant for An order of the Court dismissing the Claimant’s action on the ground that it was frivolous and abuse of court process.
The 1st Defendant maintained that it has no relationship whatsoever with the Claimant; that he was not the employer of the Claimant and denied any form of liability to the Claimant that it was the 2nd Defendant that inherited the staff liabilities of the defunct PHCN.
On 29/1/19 a final written address was filed on behalf of the 2nd Defendant. In it, learned Counsel set down for determination whether the claims of the Claimant are competent before this Court and not caught by the provisions of Public Officers Protection Act, Cap. P41, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria,that Claimant had 3 months within which to seek redress in Court, prayed the Court to dismiss this suit on the ground of failure to comply with the limitation period.
In opposition, claimant Counsel submitted that the accident involving the Claimant occurred in 2010; the 2nd Defendant was incorporated in 2011 and that the Claimant was disengaged in 2013; that 2nd Defendant in fraudulent disregard of the Employee Compensation Act, 2010 failed to pay the compensation due to the Claimant and that it cannot hide under the protection afforded by the Public Officers Protection Act
After patiently read and understood all the processes filed, listened attentively to the testimonies of the witnesses, watched their demeanor and carefully evaluated all the exhibits tendered and admitted in the course of the trial, the presiding Judge, Hon. Justice Dele Peters found no merit in the counter claims and held that the case is not barred by the Public Officers Protection Act.
“It would appear that the appellate Court has seen the hardship inherent in the application of the Public Officers Protection Act. Hence the Supreme Court has held that the Act does not apply to nor provide an umbrella for public institutions from liability for their acts.
“My understanding of the case of the Claimant, taking cognizance of the facts, the evidence led and the whole gamut of this case is that it is one founded essentially on the negligence of the Defendants.
“Considering the gamut of this case and the unfortunate circumstance of the Claimant, I hold that the Claimant is entitled to damages for injury and permanent disability to him as a result of the negligence of the Defendants.
“For all intents and practical purposes, the Claimant will forever be dependent on somebody virtually 24 hours a day and seven days a week. He needs a person to bath, feed, dress him. He needs assistance to use the toilet. He needs assistance to even scratch his body in event of an insect bite. Should he find himself in a place of public disturbance or riot, the Claimant is right on his own and all alone to fend for his dear life.
“The appearance of the Claimant at trial was one of a sorry state. One cannot but think aloud as to how much could be awarded in damages to be able to put the Claimant back in his position before the accident leading to the amputation of his both arms.”
In all, the court ordered defendant to pay claimant, the sum of One Hundred and Fifty Million Naira only (N150,000,000) as damages for the permanent injury suffered as a result of the negligence and N200,000.00 cost of action within 30 days.
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