Daniel C. Daniels V. Shell Bp Petroleum Development Company Of Nigeria Ltd (1962) LLJR-SC

Daniel C. Daniels V. Shell Bp Petroleum Development Company Of Nigeria Ltd (1962)

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This is an appeal from a judgment of the High Court of the Eastern Region dismissing a claim by the appellant for damages for alleged wrongful dismissal.

The appellant was employed by the respondent company as a Materials Assistant at a salary of £1,300 per annum, and his employment with the company was terminated after it had been discovered that the stocks of a vital commodity known as Baryte had fallen below the safety margin. The trial Judge held that the appellant was aware that he must keep a minimum stock of 30,000 to 40,000 bags of Baryte at any time, but allowed the stocks to get exhausted without reporting the situation to his superior. The trial Judge held further that the plaintiff deliberately did not carry out instructions to make a physical check of the Baryte because he felt that he was not a stock checker. It is unnecessary for the purpose of this case to consider whether the conduct mentioned above would have justified summary dismissal without notice or salary in lieu of notice, because the company did not so dismiss him. The company terminated his employment on one month’s salary in lieu of notice and paid him a sum of £495-3s-6d, which was made up of salary, housing entitlement and allowances, and gratuity entitlement.

The appellant had no written agreement with the company as to the period of notice, and the issue is whether the notice given or salary paid in lieu of notice, was reasonable. The appellant, in the Court of trial, gave no evidence to show what would have been reasonable notice, nor did he call any evidence of any usage or custom as to the period of notice in the industry in which he was employed. He said that he had been wrongfully dismissed and claimed £10,000 damages.

On the other hand the respondent company gave evidence that one month was the normal notice given to senior staff in the company. The Service Manager said that his employment could be terminated on one month’s notice, and an agreement between the company and a member of the senior executive staff was produced to show that one month was the period of notice applying to that senior officer. This agreement did not, of course, bind the appellant, but it was relevant evidence for the purpose of showing the period of notice which would be reasonable in the case of an officer of the appellant’s seniority.

Counsel for the appellant in this Court did not seek to uphold the claim for the heavy damages claimed in the Court below, but submitted that three months would have been a reasonable period of notice. The difficulty in the way of this submission is that there is no evidence on the record to support it, and the only evidence as to what would be reasonable was that of the respondent company.

In these circumstances I would dismiss the appeal, with costs assessed at 27 guineas.

Other Citation: (1962) LCN/0959(SC)

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