The Presiding Judge, Uyo Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court, Hon. Justice Mahmood Namtari has ordered African Foundry Limited to pay one Monday Ishmael the sum of N70,000,000.00 (Seventy Million Naira) only as damages for the loss of his leg while working for the firm on the 13th January 2017, and N500,000.00 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) cost of action within 30 days.
The Court held that the company is liable for negligence in the incident that led to the amputation of Mr. Monday’s leg at the prime age of 22 and the burden on the firm on explanation or rebuttal remains not discharged.
From facts, the Claimant- Mr. Monday Ishmael had submitted that he was an employee working in the scrap unit of the firm and was paid daily until sometime on or about the 13th day of January 2017 when a pipe fell from truck and shattered his right leg and was not given proper or adequate medical care as required.
He averred further that his elder brother was forced to remove him from the clinic in Portharcourt with the permission of the firm, to where he will get better attention, and a week after he was made to sign and collect the sum of N600,000.00 Cash including N200,000.00 earlier given as transport money, as full and final settlement of all claims and compensation for his injury.
It is the case of Mr. Monday that the proposed amount is too inadequate given the fact that at the time of the industrial accident he was a little above 22 years of age and he has to live the rest of his life with this permanent disability, urged the court to grant the reliefs sought.
In defense, the Defendant- African Foundry Limited not only denied that Mr. Monday was its employee but also posited that it has no scrap unit or any daily paid employee and that Mr. Monday is one of the persons who loaf about the gate of companies seeking to provide cheap labour for some contractors and was never engaged or employed to do any job for the firm on the said date.
The firm contended that the premises where the incident happened was occupied by several companies and it is very difficult to say which of the companies owns the truck or has a transaction with that out of compassion and part of its corporate social responsibility, that it took Monday to a clinic in Port Harcourt and paid N800,000.00 as full and final compensation and this is in addition to the payment of N120,000.00 as transport to Akwa Ibom State.
The defendant argued that Mr. Monday contributed to his woes when his brother remove him from the clinic on the said 13th of January 2017 to another state for better treatment only to take him to a local bone “healer”.
To the Defendant, this is contributory negligence which will also vest the liability on the Claimant, urged the court to dismiss the case in its entirety.
In opposition, Monday’s counsel, Godwin Effiong Esq contended that the inability of the firm to tender the List or Nominal Roll of her staffers on the day of the incident will lead to the inference that tendering the Nominal Roll would have been detrimental to the firm, and submitted that the court must not allow the Defendant to walk away freely from this accident.
The learned counsel opined that had the company taken his client to a bone treatment hospital at the beginning of the injury, the Claimant’s leg wouldn’t have been amputated, and urged the court to award damages in full both as punitive, exemplary, and special and general to assuage the long-suffering that his client has been exposed to all the days of his life on earth.
Delivering the judgment after careful evaluation of the submissions of both parties, the presiding Judge, Justice Mahmood Namtari held that conduct of the firm all along has shown the existence of an employment relationship with Mr. Monday Ishmael, that a contract of employment can be oral or by conduct.
“I also don’t believe that these payments were made out of the so-called pressure or intimidation by people supporting the Claimant after the accident or as a contribution by concerned companies.
“The burden on the Defendant remains not discharged particularly against my earlier finding and holding that there is in existence an employment relationship between the Claimant and the Defendant. The result is that the defendant is liable for negligence by the application of Res ipsa loquitur in this case. I so hold.” Justice Namtari ruled.