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APPELLATE COURT WILL NOT DISTURB DAMAGES OF LOWER COURT SIMPLY BECAUSE IT WOULD HAVE AWARDED A DIFFERENT FIGURE

Dictum

Although an appellate Court admittedly can disturb an award of damages if such award is excessively high or unreasonably low, it is settled that a Court of Appeal will not disturb an award of damages made by the lower Court merely because it would have come to a different figure if it had heard the case itself. See Per NNAMANI, JSC in DUYILE & ANOR V. KELLY OGUNBAYO & SONS LTD (1988) LPELR-975(SC) (P. 17, PARAS. D-G).

— U.M. Abba Aji, JSC. Cappa v NDIC (2021) – SC.147/2006

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DAMAGES IN BUILDING CONTRACT

In Mertens v. Home Freeholds Company (1921),2 K.B. 526, where the Court approved the law on this point as stated in an earlier edition of Hudson. In that case the contractor had undertaken to build to the roofing and the Court held:- The proper measure of damages was what it cost the plaintiff to complete the house substantially as it was originally intended and in a reasonable manner at the earliest moment he was allowed to proceed with the work, less any amount which would have been due and payable by the defendant to the plaintiff, had the defendant completed the house to the roofing at the time agreed by the terms of the contract.

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COURT OF APPEAL CAN ASSESS DAMAGES

As such is the position, there is now no need for this court or the Court of Appeal to look at an issue of damages as if it were a sacred cow reserved for the court of trial. The correct approach ought to be that unless an issue of credibility of witnesses as to damages arises in the proceedings, the appellate court ought, on entering or affirming a judgment in favour of the plaintiff, to assess and award damages to which he is entitled.

– Pats-Acholonu, JSC. C & C Constr. v. Okhai (2003) – SC.8/1999

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RATIONALE FOR DAMAGES AWARD

The primary object of an award of damages is to compensate the plaintiff for the harm done to him or a possible secondary object is to punish the defendant for his conduct in inflicting that harm. The rationale behind the compensatory theory for the award of damages is found in the maxim restitutio in integrum. In other words, to restore the injured party to the position he or she was in prior to the injury.

– Kekere-Ekun JSC. British v. Atoyebi (2014) – SC.332/2010

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DAMAGES FOR SUFFERING, PAIN, ANXIETY SHOULD BE ASSESSED ON REASONABLE BASIS

Sellers, L. J. in Wise v. Kaye (1962) 1 All ER 257 and which states thus: “It has always been accepted that physical injury and the personal experience of pain, and also of suffering, including worry and anxiety for the future and apprehension of an operation, or of nursing or deprivation of activity owing to disablement or embarrassment or limitation felt by reason of disfigurement, cannot in any true sense be measured in money… Damages for such injuries, originally almost invariably assessed by juries, were said to be ‘at large’, and had to be assessed on a reasonable and fair basis between party and party. There can be no restitution for the loss of a limb or loss of faculty but the law requires adequate compensation to be assessed.”

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DAMAGES FOR PAIN (WHICH CANNOT BE MEASURED) SHOULD NOT BE DENIED

In the American case of Warfield Natural Gas Co. v. Wright 54 SW 2nd it was held that where pain is claimed as an element of damages the impossibility of definitely measuring the damages by a money standard is no ground for denying pecuniary relief.

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OBJECT OF AWARD OF DAMAGES IN HUMAN RIGHTS CASES

Para. 43: “In the case of Chief Ebrimah Manneh v. Republic of The Gambia, supra, decided on 5th June 2008, this court set out some principles that will guide it in the award of damages. Though by no means exhaustive, the principles set out in that decision are relevant to this case. Principally the object of an award in human rights violation is to vindicate the injured feelings of the victim and to restore his rights and human dignity. Monetary compensation may also be awarded in appropriate cases but the objective of such an award must not be punitive. The following cases decided by the European Court of Human Rights are of relevance to this discussion on damages: Ahmed Selmouni v. State of France (2005) CHR 237; and Miroslav Cenbauer v. Republic of Croatia (2005) CBR 424 , where the court awarded damages in circumstances similar to the present case, wherein the plaintiff was tortured.”

— Saidykhan v GAMBIA (2010) – ECW/CCJ/JUD/08/10

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