⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
National Electric Power Authority v. R. O. Alli & Anor. (1992) – SC
– Strict proof;
– Res ipsa loquitir;
NATIONAL ELECTRIC POWER AUTHORITY
1. R. O. Alli (Trading under the name and style of Ijeregun Kajola Sawmill Industry);
2. Lamurey Nigeria Limited;
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
E. O. Ogwuegbu, JSC
⦿ LAWYERS WHO ADVOCATED
* FOR THE APPELLANT
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
⦿ FACT (as relating to the issues)
The defendant installed necessary fittings and equipment and supplied electricity, to the 1st plaintiff’s (1st respondent) sawmill factory at the Industrial Area Irewon Road, ljebu-Ode in Ogun State. But on the 12th of February, 1980, the defendant’s transformer supplying electricity to the factory went up in flames and the fire spread to and seriously destroyed the 1st plaintiff’s factory, the essential machinery and plant of which had been sold and supplied to him by the 2nd plaintiff. The plaintiffs’ (respondents) case is that the blow-up of the transformer and the consequential fire were as a result of the negligence and/or breach of statutory duty of the defendant, its servants and/or agents. The plaintiff claimed damages.
The defendant by its amended statement of defence joined issues with the plaintiffs on most of the issues of fact pleaded in the further amended statement of claim. In particular, it denied negligence, any breach of its statutory duty, and the applicability of res ipsa loquitur. Further, it pleaded accident, act of God (in the alternative) and that the incident was caused by technical fault in the 1st plaintiff’s machine owing to bad set up and bad management. It also pleaded that it was immune to liability.
1. Whether the learned trial Judge and the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal were right in failing to hold that the installation of the circuit breaker (which had not been found faulty) by NEPA in the plaintiff/respondent’s premises had neutralized the presumption of negligence which the circumstances of the occurrence might have raised against the Defendant/Appellant.
2. Whether there was consistent and credible evidence as to the market value and purchase price of the machines to justify the findings of the learned trial Judge which the Court of Appeal upheld.
⦿ HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
[APPEAL: THE CASE, IN REGARDS TO DAMAGES WAS REMITTED BACK TO THE TRIAL COURT FOR ASSESS. ]
1. ISSUE 1 WAS RESOLVED AGAINST THE APPELLANT BUT IN FAVOUR OF THE RESPONDENT.
i. The appellant generates electricity, provides bulk supply of same for distribution and provides supply of electricity to consumers in Nigeria. It is my view that electricity is a very dangerous thing being handled and carried by the appellant. If it should escape, it owed a duty to the consumers to exercise reasonable care and skill that the consumers should not be damaged. The degree of care which that duty involved must be proportioned to the degree of risk involved.
ii. Having considered all the circumstances, I am satisfied that negligence on the part of the appellant was proved and this is a proper case where the rule in Rylands v. Fletcher (1868) L.R. 1 Exch. 265 should apply fully.
2. ISSUE 2 WAS REMITTED BACK TO THE TRIAL COURT FOR PROPER ASSESS OF THE DAMAGES.
1. Agreed on issue 1 with the lead judgement.
2. On issue 2, he dissented to the case being remitted back to the Trial Court for assess.
i. On the only evidence before the court, contrary to the contention on behalf of the appellant, there was uncontradicted evidence of the value of the machine in 1980 when the incident occurred. In this respect, P.W.4 testified as follows: “We still sell sawmill and services of the machines. The machine sold to the plaintiff will not cost less than N80,000.00 (eighty thousand naira) now… Even after using the machine for about one year, the price would be worth N80,000.00 because when we sold it we sold to advertise but by 1980 the second hand value of the machine was worth N80.000.00.”
⦿ SOME PROVISIONS
⦿ RELEVANT CASES
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
The claims for the machines destroyed were items of special damage which are required to be proved strictly but strict proof of special damage means no more than such proof as would readily lend itself to quantification. The nature of proof in a given case must be dictated by the peculiar circumstances of the available evidence. – Ogwuegbu, JSC. NEPA v. ALLI (1992)
In addition, the character of the acts themselves which produce the damage and the circumstances under which these acts are done, regulate the degree of certainty and particularity with which the damage ought to be proved. – Ogwuegbu, JSC. NEPA v. ALLI (1992)
The cross-appellant is entitled to what is called restitutio in integrum, which means that he should recover such sum as will replace him so far as can be done by compensation in money, in the same position as if the loss had not been inflicted on him. – Ogwuegbu, JSC. NEPA v. ALLI (1992)
Where there is a total destruction of a chattel as in this case, damages to be awarded need not be based on the value of the chattels at the time of destruction. Used equipments could be sold for more than their purchase price. – Ogwuegbu, JSC. NEPA v. ALLI (1992)
For the application of the Res ipsa loquitir rests squarely on three conditions, namely: that the thing which caused the damage was under the care and control of the defendant: that the occurrence is such that it could not have happened in the absence of negligence; and that there is no evidence as to why or how the occurrence took place. – Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC. NEPA v. ALLI (1992)
For, it is not every point successfully taken that will result in an appeal being allowed. – Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC. NEPA v. ALLI (1992)