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
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
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). 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 & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd 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 or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.