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SPECIAL DAMAGES CAN SUCCEED ONLY UPON CONCRETE PROOF

Dictum

The trite position of the law as restated in these decisions of the apex Court is that a claim for special damages being exceptional and specific in nature, can succeed only upon concrete proof and not upon admission, either implied or express. Simply put because special damages are exceptional and specific in nature, they will not succeed and will not be granted as a matter of course upon admission, express or otherwise, even where it is specifically pleaded as required by the law.

— A.A. Wambai, JCA. Aliyu v. Bulaki (2019) – CA/S/36/2018

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SPECIAL DAMAGES DOES NOT SUCCEED ON ADMISSION BY OTHER PARTY – SPECIAL DAMAGES MUST BE STRICTLY PROVED

The paramount question that arises is whether a claim for special damages such as the Respondent’s claim in the instant appeal, will succeed on the defendant’s part admission of the claim. This was the question answered by the Supreme Court in the case of NNPC V CLIFCO NIG. LTD (2011) 4 MJSC 142 at 174 as follows: “A claim for special damages will not succeed simply because there is admission of claim, special damages are never inferred from the nature of the act complained of. They do not follow in the ordinary course as is the case with general damages. They are exceptional and so must be claimed specifically and proved strictly. See Incar v. Benson (1975) 3 SC 117; Odulaja V. Haddad (1973) 11 SC 357.”

— A.A. Wambai, JCA. Aliyu v. Bulaki (2019) – CA/S/36/2018

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SPECIAL DAMAGES WILL BE UPHELD UPON EVIDENCE ADDUCED AND NOT CHALLENGED

On special damages, it has been held that where the plaintiff plead the special damages and gives necessary particulars and adduce some evidence of it without the defendant challenging or contradicting the evidence, he has discharged the onus of proof placed on him and unless the evidence adduced is of such a quality that no reasonable tribunal can accept, it ought to be accepted. The reason is that where evidence called by the plaintiff in a civil case is neither challenged nor contradicted, his onus of proof is discharged on a minimal of proof.

– ARIWOOLA J.S.C. Union Bank v. Chimaeze (2014)

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NO QUANTITY OF EVIDENCE TO WARRANT SPECIAL DAMAGES

Judicial decisions have shown that there is no particular type or quantity of evidence to warrant special damages. See the case of SPDC Ltd v. Tiebo VII & Ors (2005) 9 NWLR (Pt. 931) 439 wherein this Court said:- “…in other words, it is a general guide and arises from the fact that it is impossible to prescribe the quantity and nature of evidence required in a given case to justify entitlement to special damages. In some cases, it may be necessary to show documentary proof of the loss sustained, while in other, it may be unnecessary. The important thing is that the evidence proffered must be qualitative and credible and such as lends itself to quantification. Each case depends on its own facts and circumstances.” Pages 461462 paragraphs F – B of the report.

— C.B. Ogunbiyi, JSC. Ibrahim v. Obaje (2017) – SC.60/2006

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SPECIAL DAMAGES MUST BE PROVED TO THE LAST KOBO

The law is settled that where a party claims special damages, the burden is on him to prove the special damages to the last kobo. He has to do this by leading credible evidence most of the time by documents which show the actual loss he has suffered. See Arisons Trading & Engineering Co. Ltd (2009) LPELR 554 (SC). Unchallenged ipse dixit evidence is not an automatic proof of special damages.

— P.A. Galumje, JSC. Union Bank v Nwankwo (2019) – SC.287/2006

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CLAIMANT SHOULD ESTABLISH ENTITLEMENT TO SPECIAL DAMAGES

Whenever special damages are claimed, the party so claiming has an uphill task of a strict proof. In effect the rule requires anyone asking for special damages to prove strictly that he suffered such special damages as he claimed. Thus, the claimant should establish his entitlement to that type of damages by credible evidence of such character as would suggest that he is indeed entitled to an award under that head. The general law of evidence as to proof by preponderance in civil cases operates in discharging such burden of proof. The Respondent failed to prove special damages.

— H. Mukhtar, JCA. Aliyu v. Bulaki (2019) – CA/S/36/2018

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SPECIAL DAMAGES REQUIRES PROOF

In Neka B.B.B. Manufacturing Co. Ltd v. ACB Ltd (2004) 2 NWLR (Pt 858) 521 at 540 this Court held on the point thus:- “It is trite law that where the claimant specifically alleges that he suffered special damages he must per force prove it. The method of such proof is to lay before the court concrete evidence demonstrating in no uncertain terms easily cognisable the loss or damages he has suffered so that the opposing party and the Court as umpire would readily see and appreciate the nature of the special damages suffered and being claimed. A damage is special in the sense that it is easily discernible and quantified. It should not rest on a puerile conception or notion which would give rise to speculation, approximation or estimate or such fractions.”

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