A Lagos State High Court presided over by Justice Adedayo Oyebanji has awarded N10 Million in general damages against Mak & Mak Limited, an engineering and construction company, over the death of Mr. Charles Chidi Obinweugo while working on its premises. The sum was awarded for the resultant loss of support for Mr. Obinweugo’s widow, children and aged mother.

The deceased died on 7th March, 2018, after the defendant engaged him to repair a Benut 500 piling crane machine at the company’s premises as a technician. He fell to the ground from the 40 feet high crane and broke his skull. The medical report indicated that he died of cardiopulmonary arrest as a result of severe head injury sustained from the fall.

The deceased’s dependents filed Suit No. LD/ADR/2108/2018, Mrs. Juliana Alioma Obinweugo & Anor. v Mak & Mak Limited, claiming N50 Million in general damages.

Their counsel, Chijioke Emeka, SAN, argued that the company owed a duty of care to provide the deceased with required safety kit and ensure that he was fully kitted before embarking on the job. Against the defence that kits were given to him, claimants relied on the principle of res ipsa loquitor (the fact speaks for itself).

It was argued that the claimants had suffered psychological trauma and unmitigated loss as a result of the death of the breadwinner of the family who left behind a widow, three young children, an aged mother and other dependents.

The defendant-company countered, contending that the defendant provided safety kits but the deceased failed to use them. It argued that the deceased died due to his negligence, having gone up the crane without kits. The defendant contended that it commiserated with the family and assisted them towards burial costs.

While the deceased’s widow and elder brother, Pastor Godwin Obinweugo testified for the claimants, the defendant’s maintenance manager, one Anthony, testified as DW 1.

In its judgment, the Court held that the defendant was negligent in not ensuring that the deceased used safety kits before climbing up the crane within the defendant’s premises and under its full control.

It found DW1 not to be a witness of truth, having contradicted himself during cross-examination. It noted that while the witness stated in his written testimony that the deceased failed to use provided kits, he testified in court that the deceased went up kitted, and then was found dead without the kits. The court held that the police report supported that the deceased died without kits.

Justice Oyebanji held that the defendant breached its duty of care to the deceased, although he was contributorily negligent for not using the kits. The Court therefore found that the deceased’s widow, three young children and aged mother suffered damage as a result of his death and awarded N10 Million in general damages, post judgment interest of 10% per annum until full liquidation of the judgment sum; and N500, 000 as costs of the suit.

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