Nigeria: Value For The Loss Of Use Of A Finger = Ngn500,000?

Last Updated: 2 May 2017
Article by Perchstone & Graeys

FACTS

Solomon Jude lost a finger to an armed robbery attack in the course of attending to his duty out of station. He contended that the incident and the injury he sustained therefrom were a result of the defendant's default in keeping to the terms of the condition of service, specifically, to provide for him accommodation in the new station to which he was transferred.

Employed by the Nigerian Bottling Company in March 2003 and at different times transferred to work in different branch outposts/offices of the defendant's company, Mr. Jude was transferred to the defendant's Owerri office, and subsequently to its Orlu depot as a store keeper in September 2012. By his employment terms and condition contained in the Junior Staff handbook, the defendant had the responsibility to provide him with the means and facility to settle down where he was transferred to. However, because the defendant delayed in making such arrangements at Orlu, Mr. Jude had to shuttle daily between Owerri (his residence/physical location) and Orlu, the new work-station. On September 28, 2012, while returning to Owerri from Orlu, Mr. Jude was attacked by armed robbers who robbed him, beat him up and shot his middle finger. He informed the defendant of the incidence, was advised to seek medical attention and was granted medical leave. The employer did not, however, pay for the expense incurred in seeking medical attention, and his employment was subsequently terminated, ostensibly on a different reason.

Mr. Jude filed an action at the National Industrial Court (NIC), seeking for, amongst other reliefs, the sum of N90, 000,000.00 (ninety million Naira) being damages for the permanent injury sustained he sustained during his employment by the Defendant.

ISSUES

At the hearing, the central issue turned on whether the claimant had proved his case as to be entitled to the reliefs he sought.

Finding/Decision

The NIC held that the injury resulted remotely from the defendant's default and furthermore, awarded N89, 500,000 less the sum asked by an aggrieved employee for the loss of a finger in Solomon Jude v. Nigerian Bottling Company PLC1; "only a finger was lost. Although he is entitled to compensation for the loss of his finger, this court considers the sum claimed as being rather unrealistic, considering that the missing finger does not prevent the claimant from using the hand as a whole. The effect of the lost finger to the productivity of the hand does not necessarily justify the sum of N90, 000,000.00 claimed by the Claimant. From my assessment, the sum of N500, 000.00 will be adequate compensation to the claimant.'

The NIC had earlier observed that the defendant had the plaintiff covered under a health insurance policy, and that as applicable in the particular facts of this case, one of the conditions under which the employer would be liable for an employee's medical treatment (where the employee is not treated by an in-house medical personnel) is where the employee had obtained the written consent of the company. In the instant case the employee failed to obtain the written consent of his employer and the court held that the latter was not responsible for his treatment.

The court also considered the issue of whether Nigerian Bottling Company PLC fulfilled its obligations towards a worker sent to work outstation. A clause in the Employer's Handbook stated that: "...where made at employee's request, an employee who is permanently transferred by management from one location/town to another will receive a special single payment equal to his two months' basic salary, plus N5000 as resettlement grant. The company will also transport the employee and provide him with accommodation at the new station or pay in lieu of accommodation at the company's prevailing rate for a period not exceeding one month..."2

In the instant case, the employee had failed (or delayed) in making good of its obligations to the employee and the NIC, per Anuwe J. found that since the employee defaulted, it was remotely responsible for the injury caused.

COMMENTS

The NIC's decision in this case touches on some salient employment issues.

Employer's duty to employee when latter is sent to work outstation

The dynamics of the Solomon Jude's case enabled the court to reiterate the responsibility owed by employers to employees when the latter is transferred i.e. sent to work outstation. Thus, where workers are sent to work outstations (including to attend seminars, courses, trainings, etc. on the employer's expense), employers must ensure such workers receive the entitlements/allowances due as any injury, accident, loss that results due to the employer's default will be borne by it.

Balancing Employer/Employee Responsibility

The facts of this case appear to lend credence to the reluctance of the NIC to interfere unduly with work place dynamics on the side of either party, where inappropriate. Put simply, the business of the court is to protect the interests of both the employee and employer, and in doing so, strike a balance to ensure that neither is meted with harsh or otherwise unfair treatment at the instance of the other. The NIC did not appear swayed by sentiments of occasioning permanent/physical disability. The interplay of the facts was a major/critical factor in reaching a conclusion of compensatory damages. Put simply, employees must note that where accident, injury or loss results in which the employee is mandated by law or the organisation's handbook (or other internal document) to a compensation, the injured worker/employee must fulfil every pre-condition prescribed to successfully recover for such accident, injury or loss.

Furthermore, the NIC, while empathising with an employee's loss (and encouraging employers to do such), will not award unrealistic damages against the employer for employee's loss.

How Termination can be effected

An employer can terminate employment orally, in writing or by conduct. However, the question arises as to whether terminations made orally or by conduct will not work contrariwise to international best practices which the NIC is empowered to enforce within the context of our local milieu.

Employers must thus ensure that a notice of termination must be given to the employee, as failure to do so amounts to wrongful termination. Also, employers must note that where they deliver a letter of termination to the employee, it will not be effective unless service to the letter is acknowledged or endorsed by the employee.

CONCLUSION

A feature that stands out in this case is the fact that the court was brought to the level of "valuing" a human body part caused by the injury to award damages. Overall, a take-home from the court's decision is that the NIC is making real its recent rhetoric that it will ensure a balance of both employee and employer's rights in Nigerian labour jurisprudence—an area that appears traditionally focused on protecting employee's rights.

Footnotes

1 Unreported Suit No. NICN/OW/33/2013 the judgment of which was delivered on July 19, 2016.

2 Per Anuwe J.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions