Vanguard (Lagos)

17 November 2012

Nigeria: Court Awards N3.5 Million Damages Against Bullion Van Driver, Bank

Abuja — After five years of intense legal battle, reprieve has finally come the way of Mr. Samuel Chinedu Abana who on January 17, 2007, escaped death by the whiskers after a reckless Bullion Van driver, rammed into his car, sending him and his driver into coma for several weeks.

In its judgment, the High Court of Lagos State Ikeja Division, found the Bullion Van Driver, Mr. Sunday Obiere, guilty of driving against traffic, maintaining that both the defendant and his employer, United Bank for Africa, UBA, are liable to pay the sum of N3.5million to the victim as special and general damages.

In his statement of claim dated August 21, 2007, Abana, told the court that the accident happened at a bend, thus making it impossible for him to see the Bullion Van marked PF 2672 SPY, which he said was speeding on the one way road.

He said after his Toyota Camry car with Registration number DX 677 LSR, was hit by the Van, both himself and his driver lost consciousness and were rushed to the hospital by policemen, noting that the car was damaged beyond recognition.

Consequently, he prayed the court for "a declaration that the defendants were negligent in the course of driving their vehicle; thereby occasioning the accident" as well as, "an order for the immediate replacement of the said Toyota Camry Saloon car belonging to the claimants, destroyed by the defendants."

Alternatively, he sought for "an order for the payment of the sum of N2million only, being the purchase price of the said Toyota. An order for the payment of the sum of N966, 000.00 only, being special damages for inconveniences, being cost of car hire.

"An order for the payment of the sum of N430, 000 being cost of medical treatment. An order for the payment of the sum of N6, 000.00 per day, being cost of car hire from the 1st of September 2007 and until this suit is finally determined.

"General Damages in the sum of N2million and N500, 000 assessed as the cost of this suit and an order for the payment of a total claim sum of N5.9million."

Nevertheless, in his Judgment, trial Justice A.A. Philips, relied in the decided case-law in Illuyomade vs. Ogunsakin, 2001, 8 NWLR, and held that "it is trite that where it is established that without apparent cause a driver goes off his side of the road to the other side of that road, as in this case, a court in the absence of an accepted explanation from the driver of the Vehicle, is entitled to draw an inference that it was due to momentary inattention amounting to criminal negligence. If an accident occurs as a result, the driver of the vehicle is liable in negligence.

"In conclusion therefore the alternate claims of the claimant in this action succeed and I find the 1st and 2nd defendants liable in damages to the claimant as claimed in the said claim before this court. These defendants shall therefore pay over to the claimant forthwith the sum of N3, 396, 000.00 which is the total of the claim for N2million plus N966, 000.00 plus a further N430, 000.00.

"The 1st and 2nd defendants shall pay the costs of this action assessed at N100, 000.00."

Meantime, the defendants have entered an appeal against the judgment, contending that "the learned trial judge erred in law when she held that the appellants were liable in negligence and awarded the sum of N2m against the appellants in favour of the respondent.

"The respondent did not prove that the 2nd appellant drove against traffic; no evidence was led by the respondents as to the cause of the accident and/ or police report on the accident.

"The learned trial judge did not take into consideration the wear and tear on the respondent's vehicle for the period of usage."

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