Thursday, 7th December 2023

N50b suit against firm gets February 7 hearing date

By Joseph Onyekwere
14 December 2021   |   2:54 am
Justice Weli Chechey of the Rivers State High Court, Port Harcourt, has adjourned to February 7 and 8, 2022, and N50 billion suit filed by Emeka Okoli and his wife, Stella against their employer

Justice Weli Chechey of the Rivers State High Court, Port Harcourt, has adjourned to February 7 and 8, 2022, and N50 billion suit filed by Emeka Okoli and his wife, Stella against their employer, the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) over alleged negligence. 
The suit was filed by the couple and their son, Chinazam, who allegedly suffered brain damage after a surgery performed by doctors in Shell Hospital, Port Harcourt.

Chinazam, Emeka and Stella are 1st, 2nd and 3rd claimants respectively.
Sued along with Shell as 2nd and 3rd defendants are two of its doctors, Dr. Alexander Dimoko and Dr. Dafe Akpoduado, who performed an appendectomy surgery on Okoli’s son, Chinazam, sometime in September 2016. 
During the pre-trial conference, Stella Emeka-Okoli, the traumatised mother of Chinazam, was present.
Counsel to the claimants, Prof. Akin Ibidapo-Obe, narrated to the court how Chinazam, the only son of the couple who suffered brain damage, remained incapacitated and confined to a wheelchair, following alleged negligent surgical procedure by the defendants. 
Ibidapo-Obe said: “This is a boy, who was injured by Shell doctors at the age of 10. He is not able to perform all the activities of daily living. He can’t eat, drink and talk by himself.”
Ibidapo-Obe told the court that counsel to the defendants had filed preliminary objections, relying on some technicalities to stop the suit.
He said he was ready to reply to the technicalities raised by the legal team of Shell led by Michael Amadi and therefore, requested date to enable the judge to get all documents for the matter.
Justice Chechey adjourned the matter to February 7 and 8 to hear arguments on preliminary objections.
The applicants are jointly and severally seeking N50 billion as general and exemplary damages “for personal injuries, loss and damages caused to the 1st claimant by the negligence and breach of the duty of the care of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants.” 
The money includes damages for the 1st claimant’s “consequent brain injury, pain, mental agony and suffering of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd claimants and the two sisters of Chinazam” among other issues listed for determination of the court.
In their 55-paragraph statement of claims, the claimants’ alleged serial acts of negligence by Shell Hospital in Port Harcourt, which the claimants alleged, began with the decision to operate without conducting necessary and appropriate scientific enquiries. 

The claimants also alleged that a procedure that the doctors claimed would take 45 minutes extended to five hours at the end of which their son was wheeled out unconscious and suffering severe seizures  

Shell doctors claimed the outcome was a result of drug reaction, qualified specialists in South Africa and the United States have confirmed hypoxia caused by lack of oxygen to the brain during surgery. 
The claimants alleged that Dr. Akpoduado, the anaesthetist, allegedly wrongly administered spinal instead of general anaesthesia, did not administer appropriate drugs in anticipation of the complications that ultimately caused Chinazam’s brain damage.

Now aged 15, he is unable to independently perform any activity of daily living like walking, talking or eating by himself.
He is constantly drooling, suffers regular seizures and must be carried in and out of a wheelchair or bed. 
Since then, the Okoli family including two older sisters aged 17 and 19 years have had their lives disrupted and have suffered psychological trauma.