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BURDEN OF PROOF IN CIVIL CASES

Dictum

It is to be noted that in civil cases, the proper question for the Court to determine in order to effectually and completely determine the case between the parties is: Whether the Plaintiff has proved his case upon preponderance of evidence as required by law? This question is in line with our law, that the onus is on the Plaintiff to prove his case by preponderance of evidence and the burden of proof does not shift. There is a plethora of judicial authorities on this. Let me quote extensively what the Court said in Odum v. Chibueze (2016) All FWLR (Pt. 848) 714 at 742 743 to wit: “Now, one of the most firmly established principle of legal adjudication is that in a civil suit, the person who asserts a fact has the primary burden of proving the assertion. This is explained by the maxim “ei qui affirmat non ei qui negat incumbit probation” which means the burden of proof lies on one who alleges, and not on him who denies Arum v. Nwobodo (2004) 9 NWLR (Pt. 878) 411, (2005) All FWLR (Pt. 246) 1231; Olaleye v. Trustees of ECWA (2011) All FWLR (Pt. 565) 297, (2011) 2 NWLR (Pt. 1230) 1; Imonikhe v. Unity Bank – Plc. (2011) All FWLR (Pt. 586) 423; (2011) NWLR (Pt. 1262) 624. In other words, the onus of proof of an issue rests upon the party whether claimant or Defendant who substantially asserts the affirmative of the issue. It is fixed at the beginning of the trial by the state of the pleadings as it is settled as a question of law, remaining unchanged throughout the trial exactly where the pleading place it and never shifting in any circumstance whatever. In deciding what party asserts the affirmative, regard must be had to the substance of the issue, and not merely to its grammatical form which the pleader can frequently vary at will. The true meaning of the rule is that where a given allegation whether affirmative or negative, forms an essential part of a party’s case, the proof of such allegation rests on him Elemo v. Omolade (1968) NMLR 359; Fashanu v. Adekoya (1974) 6 SC 83; Atane v. Amu (1974) 10 SC 237; Kate Enterprises Ltd v. Daewoo (Nig.) Ltd (1985) 2 NWLR (Pt. 5) 116 and Ogboru v. Uduaghan (2011) All FWLR (Pt. 577) 650, (2011) 2 NWLR (Pt. 1232) 538.”

— I.E. Ekwo J. Mbah v. NYSC, Ibrahim Muhammad (FHC/ABJ/CS/611/2023, 10-NOV-2023)

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FACTS IN DEFENSE CASE MAY STRENGTHEN CLAIMANT’S CASE, AND MAY BE RELIEF UPON

There is no doubt that in civil matters, the onus of proof shifts as the evidence preponderates. I need to say here that a Plaintiff, as the Respondent herein, must succeed on the strength of his own case and not on the weakness of the defence … The rule however changes if the Plaintiff finds...

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A PARTY IS FREE TO PROVE HIS CASE BY ANY MEANS HE DEEMS APPROPRIATE

“10. Defendant contended that the fact that the plaintiff did not’ testify himself or call witnesses to testify on his behalf amounts to a waiver of his claim as there is no substantiating evidence upon which judgment can be granted in his favour. Defendant urged the Court to dismiss the plaintiff’s claim as it is unverified and unsubstantiated. With respect, this position canvassed by the defendant is not tenable at law. A plaintiff can prove his case either by relying on documents or by providing oral evidence or he could use a combination of both. A party is free to prove his case by any means he deems appropriate.”

— Ayika v Liberia (2012) – ECW/CCJ/JUD/09/12

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STANDARD OF PROOF IN CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS

It was not for the appellant to prove that the stick he held did not and could not cause the injuries. It is for the prosecution to prove that its use caused the injuries. The burden does not shift. The standard of proof required is very high. On this point, Lord Diplock says – In...

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BURDEN OF PROOF ON HE WHO ALLEGES POSITIVE

The law is elementary that the burden of proof is on the party who alleges the affirmative. Whoever desires any court to give judgment as to any legal right or liability dependent on the existence of facts which he asserts must prove that those facts exist. – Niki Tobi, JSC. Calabar CC v. Ekpo (2008)...

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APPELLANT MUST SUCCEED ON ITS OWN BRIEF – WHERE RESPONDENT FILED NO BRIEF

An issue may then be raised as to whether the non-filing of the Respondent’s Brief of Argument will make the Appellants appeal to succeed. All the some, the non-filing of the Brief of Argument in respect of this appeal by the Respondent to the issues ventilated by the Appellant in his Brief of Argument does...

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WHEN PLAINTIFF’S BURDEN IS MINIMAL

It is settled law that where the party offers no evidence in defence of the case of the plaintiff, the burden placed on the plaintiff is minimal, since there is no evidence to challenge the case of the plaintiff and the plaintiff can use the unchallenged evidence to establish his case. – Onnoghen JSC. Chami...

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