Compensation Claims: Industrial Court Strikes Out Suit against Firm for Wrong process
His Lordship, Hon. Justice Zaynab Bashir of the National Industrial Court, Portharcourt Judicial division, has struck out the suit filed by Mrs Endurance Afemoni against Baker Hughes Incorporated and 2 others having been brought under a wrong process and outside the contemplation of the provisions of the Employees’ Compensation Act.
The court held that if an employee chooses to take an action for breach of duty of care, in which case he would be seeking for damages, which is another form of compensation, such employee cannot apply for compensation under the Employees’ Compensation Act anymore.
From facts, the Claimant Mrs Endurance claimed for compensation on behalf of herself and dependants of her deceased husband who worked with the firm and according to her died on the 21st of August, 2011 while returning from work.
The Defendants averred that the death of Paul Azuka Ojei was an unfortunate incident which neither arose from or attributable to his employment that the support given to the deceased family during his burial was an act of magnanimity on the part of the firm.
The Defendants added that upon his death, he was offered his terminal benefit through his Personal Representative that the claim for compensation under the Employees Compensation Act of 2010 before this court is frivolous, incompetent, misconceived and the honourable court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the said claims that the mere fact that an employee died while working for an employer does not ipso facto entitle the employee to payment of compensation under the Employees Compensation Act.
Upon cross-examination, claimant posited that the basis of her claim was that the Defendants was negligent in taking care of her husband that there is no provision in the Employee Compensation Act which specifically oust the jurisdiction of the Honourable Court to entertain claims of the Dependents of a deceased employee from the employer.
Counsel argued further that the Court has jurisdiction to make a binding declaration on the rights of parties as the Claimant claimed a solitary declaratory relief and this Court has powers to make a binding declaration of the entitlement of the Claimant as a dependant of the deceased employee pursuant to the Employee’s Compensation Act, 2010.
Delivering Judgment after submissions of both parties, the presiding Judge, Hon. Justice Zaynab Bashir expressed thus;
“For sake of clarity, I must state that while this Court has jurisdiction to entertain civil causes and matters related to, connected with or arising from Employees’ Compensation Act, the Act makes specific provision in relation to claims for compensation which the Claimant is seeking and there are specific procedures laid down in the said provision for the claim of compensation if indeed the Claimant expects to get compensation pursuant to the Act.
“The instant case, the Claim of the Claimant is neither here, nor there as it is not a claim for breach of duty of care under common law or breach of a term under the contract of employment which would make the employer liable in damages if proved and as it is not a claim to compel the Board of NSITF to pay compensation to the Claimant from the Fund established under the Employees’ Compensation Act upon proving that she has complied with the requirements for payment.
“In the light of the foregoing, the sole issue is resolved to the effect that the Claimant’s claim is brought pursuant to the Employees’ Compensation Act and upon the consideration of the provisions of the said Act, the claim of the Claimant cannot be granted by this court as the Defendant is not the appropriate body empowered to make payment of compensation under the Employees’ Compensation Act.