LAW OF TORTS 1 - AFRILEC LTD V LEE(2013) 6 NWLR.

LAW OF TORTS 1

AFRILEC LTD V LEE(2013) 6 NWLR.
FACTS:
The respondent herein was jointly employed by the 1st and 2nd appellant as project manager between 1999 and December 200 to oversee the construction of Unilever soap project, a soap factory contracted to the 1st and 2nd appellant by Unilever PLC. The parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) dated 13 September 2001 which contained the terms and conditions of the contract. In the main, the respondent undertook to supervise the execution of the project in exchange for N8,000,000.00 (eight million naira) to be paid to him by the appellants in 6 (six) installments.
The appellants paid the first five installments, but failed to pay the sum of N1,250,000.00 (one million, two hundred and fifty thousand naira) covering the last stage of the contract, on t he ground that the respondent had breached the contract.

Aggrieved, the respondent filed an action in the High Court of Lagos, wherein he sought the sum of N1,250,000.00 (one million, two hundred and fifty thousand naira) and interest thereon.
The trial court entered judgment in favour of the respondent, and granted him his claim.
Dissatisfied, the appellants appealed to the Court of Appeal.
The issues in the court of appeal include:
1.     Whether the learned trial judge was correct in awarding judgment to the respondent in the sum of N1,250,000.00 ( one million, two hundred and fifty thousand naira) with interest at 21% per annum from 1 January 2002 until 16 September 2005 and until the amount is liquidated.
2.     Whether the learned trial judge was correct in holding that the appellants did not establish their counterclaim for special and general damages totaling N10,096,602.52 (ten million, ninety-six thousand, six hundred and two naira, fifty-two kobo).
The Court of Appeal adorning the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with ‘terms of contract’ held that the court would not depart from the terms of the agreement on which parties are ad idem. The severability of each segment of payment installment which was held to be a function of the court, did not accept that what the claimant had done was part performance of the contract which envisage a full time engagement. Notably, project management is essentially about monitoring and control usually to guard against waste and failure. The Court of appeal did not accept self-help of the defendants who withheld payment for unsubstantiated allegation of failure of the claimants to produce drawings for the project that was not found in the contract per Memorandum of Understanding.
The counterclaim of special damages argued together against the view of the Court of Appeal to have been separated as different causes of action was found unsubstantiated upon the requirement of proving special damages strictly.
One of the basis for which the appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal was on the meaning of ‘False Imprisonment’ and it was stated that ‘ A false imprisonment is a complete derivation of liberty for anytime however short, without lawful cause(P.21,para,E).

 On the meaning of ‘imprisonment, it stated that ‘ Imprisonment is the restraint of a man’s liberty whether it be in the open field, or in the stocks or in the cage in the street, or in a man’s own house, as well as the common goal, and in all places the party so restrained is said to be a prisoner, so long as he does not have his liberty freely to go at all times to all places wherever he wills without bail or main praise or otherwise. The prisoner may be confined within a definite space by being put under lock and key or his movements may simply be constrained by the will of another’ .

 Bage J.C.A in delivering  the lead judgement defined it as ‘complete deprivation of liberty for anytime however short, without lawful cause. Imprisonment is no other thing but the restraint of a man’s liberty whether it be in the open field, or in the stocks or in the cage, or in a man’s own house. The party so restrained is said to be a prisoner so long as he has not his liberty to freely go to all places he wishes to go. So long as his movement is constrained by the will of another person it is false imprisonment.’
The general damages counterclaimed for False Imprisonment of the 3rd defendant while in the interrogation was found to have been pursuant to the plaintiff’s right to make a report to the police to use its discretion in taking steps to protect him and his family. Thus, it was not actionable without the evidence that the claimant initiated False Imprisonment.
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