Magbo Ekwo V. Simon Enechukwu (1954)
Tort—Negligence—Injury—Plaintiff’s contributory negligence—Reasonableness of conduct—Cause of damage.
Plaintiff (now appellant) vas a passenger on defendant’s lorry; his seat was badly fixed and came out of its position; he fell and broke the bones of his hand badly. The defendant’s driver offered to take him to hospital, but he was afraid his hand might be amputated there and chose to go to a native doctor for treatment.
Some days later he was taken to hospital suffering from a septic wound of his hand which was festering and gangrenous, and his arm was amputated.
The doctor gave evidence that he was convinced if the plaintiff had come to hospital immediately, he might have been saved from amputation, and that the fracture could have been cured.
The plaintiff sued for damages for the loss of his arm which he alleged was due to the negligence of the defendant’s servants.
The trial Judge gave damages on the footing of the fracture of the bones: he held that the amputation was a result of plaintiff’s contributory negligence and too remote besides; also that the plaintiff not having chosen the course which a reasonable man would take, the defendant was not responsible for the further damage caused by the plaintiff’s own act. The plaintiff appealed.
(1) There being a widespread strong belief in native doctors, it could not be said that the plaintiff, suffering from shock and great pain as he was, had acted unreasonably in that sudden emergency in choosing to go to a native doctor for treatment.
(2) The doctor’s evidence meant no more than that if plaintiff had gone Straight to hospital, there was a high probability that amputation would not have been necessary: it could not be held that there was no direct physical connection between the negligence and the amputation.
Appeal allowed; damages increased.