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Court awards N632m against Julius Berger over negligence

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THE division of the Court of Appeal, Owerri has upheld the judgment of High Court Owerri which awarded the sum of N631.6m and 151,000 Rupees against Julius Berger Plc over negligence.

The court gave the penalty against the company as general and special damages in an appeal and cross appeal filed by Philomena Ugo.

The presiding judge, Justice Frederick O. Oho also awarded additional 108,000 Lakh as part of victim’s (Ugo) overseas medical treatment as earlier awarded by the lower court.

In a 85 pages copy of the judgment obtained by The Guardian, the suit which was instituted by ‎Mrs Ugo against Berger plc and Godwin Obado who are first and second defendants respectively has to do with reckless driving.

Ugo through her counsel, Emeka Ozoani had sought for a declaration that 2nd defendant’s (Obado)‎ negligent driving of the Berger plc truck with registration no XA 493 BWR and fleet no B 4690 on December 8, 2006 which collided with the plaintiff (Ugo) car and seriously injured her was unlawful, malicious reckless and negligent.

She also prayed the court to declare that the first defendant was vicariously liable for the reckless, malicious and negligent driving of the aforesaid truck by Obado, it’s employee, servant and or agent as well as N3b special,exemplary and aggravated damages against the 1st defendant.

In a considered judgment, the trial court on October 26, 2009 held that the defendant /appellants are liable to the claimant/respondent in negligence and awarded damages below the N3b prayed for by the plaintiff.

Dissatisfied with the judgment,‎ Berger Plc appealed against it. Similarly, Ugo dissatisfied with the issue of award of damages also cross appealed.

However, the appellate court in its lead judment delivered by Justice Oho said: “ There had been an overwhelming amount of facts in this case from which the lower court could have gone ahead to make its award for general damages in favour of the cross appellant, but the lower court decline to do this.
 
“In the case at hand, I ought to‎ take into account the pain the cross appellant has suffered, the injury to her leg and the entire hip region, and the handicap which she now suffers in calculating the damages which she should be paid for the loss she suffered as natural consequence of the wrong which has been done to her.

“I have considered the fact that the claimant suffered a fracture of the left femur and as a result of which she now has a metal angular plate fixed to her hips and which‎ had collapsed for a record third time resulting in her seeking overseas specialist medical attention in India. She attended a good number of hospital and clinics as well, and during which period she suffered pain.”

The court also considered the fact that Ugo cannot drive again,and had been a sports person by virtue of her position as acting Director of Sports of Imo State University and a member of Imo State Sport Council.

“The claimant must be given compensation as far as money can do it which will make up for her loss proportionate to her injuries and such as will be. Fair assessment in the opinion of a reasonable man. I hereby make an award of the sum of N500,000,000.00 (five hundred million) naira as general damages for pain, suffering, loss of amenities,loss of expectation and enjoyment of life”, the court ruled.



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