A High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State has slammed N6 million against the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) as special and general damages to Messrs Keregbe Kpa and Nuka Livingstone. The company was to pay the amount to Kpa and Livingstone, as special and general damages caused them by the company after consuming contaminated drinks.
The claimants had through their counsel, Chigozirim Nwaodu, instituted a suit against the defendant on March 27, 2009, claiming the sum of N100 million as special and general damages. Justice Emmanuel Ogbuji, while delivering the judgment, found the defendant in Suit No.PHC/551/2009, guilty of negligence and breached its duty of care to the claimants.
The judge upheld that the NBC was negligent when it manufactured and sold to the first claimant, Keregbe Kpa, soft drinks contaminated with decomposing cockroach and other harmful substances on or about May 17, 2008. Ogbuji stated further that it was an absurd that the NBC’s Quality Assurance Manager, Mrs. Comfort Okere, who claimed the company had the state-of-the-art equipment could not tell the court how many bottles were washed daily and why their product was contaminated.
“I must state and agree with the claimants’ counsel that whatever may be the case, by the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor, the defendant has the obligation to explain how their products, which vessels underwent a state-of-the-art cleaning processes, acquired foreign objects or particles, that rendered them unsafe for human consumption.
“In fact, it is absurd that the defendant produces many bottles a day, but its witness stated that she did not know how many bottles are washed daily. In her testimony, she said their Port Harcourt plant produces 30,000 crates (720,000 bottles) of soft drinks a day, but did not know how many bottles the defendant wash a day.” While declining to grant relief of N23 million to the claimants, the judge upheld that they proved their case on preponderance of evidence.
“Wherefore, it is ordered and declared that the defendant was negligent and breached its duty of care to the claimants when it manufactured and caused to be sold to the first claimant soft drinks contaminated with decomposing cockroach and other harmful substances on or about May 17, 2008.
“The discovery of the said contamination by the guests of the first claimant in a child dedication ceremony he organized for his little daughter on May 18, 2008 and for which the first claimant was derogatorily called ‘an evil or blood money man, money ritualist’ and a similar plasters of infamy by the guests and other persons amounted to the defamation of the claimant or an aggravated embarrassment