EVEN IF MALICIOUS FALSEHOOD DOES NOT APPLY IN MASTER/SERVANT RELATIONSHIP; ONCE ESTABLISHED, THE WRONG PARTY WILL BE ENTITLTED TO HIS REMEDY

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CASE TITLE: PROMASIDOR NIGRIA LIMITED & ANOR v. MISS RUTH ASIKHIA (2019) LPELR-46443(CA)

PRACTICE AREA: LABOUR LAW

LEAD JUDGMENT BY: UGOCHUKWU ANTHONY OGAKWU, J.C.A.

FACTS OF THE CASE 

This action was instituted at the High Court of Lagos State by Mr. Festus Asikhia. The cause of action arose from the circumstances surrounding his exit from the 1st Appellant Company. He died during the pendency of the action at the lower Court. The cause of action having survived him, he was substituted with his daughter, Miss Ruth Asikhia.

The case of the original Claimant is that on 10th March 1998 he was summoned by the 1st Appellant’s Managing Director and that upon arrival, his official car was impounded and he was given a letter accepting his resignation from the 1st Appellant company but he protested that he had not written any letter of resignation. He stated that thereafter he was not allowed into the premises of the 1st Appellant.

The case of the Appellants is that when the Original Claimant’s incompetence in the discharge of his duties came to light, he pleaded with the Management of the 1st Appellant to be allowed to resign rather than being terminated or dismissed. The Management of the 1st Appellant acceded to this oral entreaty and then wrote to the Original Claimant accepting his voluntary resignation on the understanding that he was to forward a formal letter of resignation thereafter but he never did.

By the 2nd Further Amended Statement of Claim, the Claimant claimed the following reliefs amongst others:A declaration that in so far as the Original Claimant, Mr. Festus Asikhia, did not write or submit a letter dated 10th March, 1998 or any other letter disengaging his services the 1st Defendant’s letter dated 10th March, 1998 purporting to accept the Original Claimant’s letter of resignation dated 10th March, 1998 with effect from 11th March, 1998 is null and void and of no effect, An order setting aside the 1st Defendant’s letter dated 10th March, 1998 headed ACCEPTANCE OF RESIGNATION LETTER. An order that the 1st Defendant do pay to the Claimant being the personal representative of the Estate of the deceased original Claimant all his salaries, allowances and other entitlements which would have been payable to him but for the contents of the said letter of the 1st Defendant dated 10th March, 1998.

The parties filed and exchanged pleadings. The Respondent raised a counterclaim. The matter was subjected to a full dressed plenary hearing at which testimonial and documentary evidence was adduced. In its judgment which was delivered on 24th May 2011 the lower Court entered judgment in part for the Claimant’s claim and also in part for the Defendants’ counterclaim.

The Defendants were however dissatisfied with the part of the decision of the lower Court wherein the sum of N2.5 million was awarded in favour of the Claimant as damages for malicious falsehood and appealed to the Court of Appeal.

ISSUE(S) FOR DETERMINATION 

The Court determined the appeal on the following issue viz:

“Whether the lower Court was right to have awarded the sum of N2.5m in favour of the Respondent as damages for malicious falsehood.”

DECISION OF THE COURT 

On the whole, the appeal succeeds in part.  Apart from having reduced the amount awarded as damages, the decision of the trial Court was affirmed.

RATIO DECIDENDI

 

  • LABOUR LAW – MASTER/SERVANT RELATIONSHIP – Whether the tort of malicious falsehood is applicable to a master/servant relationship; whether damages can be awarded for same

 

  • APPEAL – INTERFERENCE WITH AWARD OF DAMAGES – Circumstances in which an appellate court will interfere with award of damages made by a trial Court
  • COURT – DUTY OF COURT – Duty of court to do justice according to law and not sentiments

lawpavilion • February 18, 2019


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