3PLR – THE UNITED AFRICA COMPANY LIMITED V. A.O. JOHNSON

POLICY, PRACTICE AND PUBLISHING, 3PLR, LAW REPORTS

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THE UNITED AFRICA COMPANY LIMITED

V.

A.O. JOHNSON

DIVISIONAL COURT,

COLONY AND PROTECTORATE, LAGOS

6TH AUGUST, 1935

3PLR/1935/1 (DC-CPL)

 

 CITATIONS

 

BEFORE: SIR DONALD KINGDON, C.J.

 

REPRESENTATION

  1. P. Thomas for the plaintiffs.

Chris. Johnson for the defendant.

 

MAIN ISSUES                                      

EMPLOYMENT AND LABOUR LAW:- Contract of employment for Produce Clerk–Allowance for loss by shrinkage of produce – Meaning of clause of contract

FOOD AND AGRICULTURE LAW:- Quality of Agricultural produce – Produce clerk – Contract of employment to secure integrity of mandated quality of commodity – How interpreted

 

 

MAIN JUDGMENT

The judgment of the Divisional Court (Sir Donald Kingdon, C.J.) was delivered at Lagos on 6th August, 1935.

 

SIR DONALD KINGDON, C.J.

In this case in their writ the plaintiffs claimed £1,329 13s. 3d. being balance due under four heads but the parties have come to an agreement that the sum due is £1,191 11s. Id. subject to one point which is left for the decision of the Court. The defendant claims that under the terms of the agreement (Ex. A in this case) under which he was engaged by plaintiffs as a produce buyer he is entitled to an allowance for shrinkage upon the produce bought by him for the company.

 

He claims that the amount due should be reduced by £435 10s. 0d. which figure is made up as follows:

£    s.   d.

Cocoa:

3% on 1,350 tons at £10 a ton                                       405      0     0

Palm kernels:

3% on 209 tons 2 cwt. 2 qr. 18 lb. at £5 a ton                30  10  0

Total                                                                               435      10   0

 

The plaintiffs say that defendant is not entitled to any allowance whatever for shrinkage on either cocoa or palm kernels.

 

The relevant clause of the agreement reads as follows:­

“5.     The clerk shall accept and incur full responsibility for the quantity and the quality of all produce bought by him and shall make good any loss in weight and any loss occasioned by his buying produce which is not according to the standard required by the trade, subject to such allowances (if any) for shrinkages as may be made by the Company from time to time as an act of grace.”

 

The interpretation of that clause is rather doubtful; it may, as the plaintiffs contend, give the defendant no legal rights at all to any allowance for shrinkage or it may, as the defendant contends, give him an absolute right to such allowances (if any) for shrink­ages as the plaintiffs were during the period in question in the practice of making to their produce buyers.

 

I am inclined to think that the former interpretation is the correct one but even if the latter is correct the onus is still upon the defendant to prove the practice and the rate of allowance (if any) to which he is entitled. He has quite failed to discharge this onus.

 

As to cocoa the evidence of the plaintiffs’ Produce Manager is quite definite that no such allowance has ever been made and the defendant has been unable to prove a single authentic instance of any such allowance. His own general evidence that one Macaulay and others were given allowances for shrinkage is of far too vague a nature to prove such a practice.

 

The same applies to palm kernels, the only difference here being that the plaintiffs’ Produce Manager admits that in certain exceptional circumstances allowances have from time to time been made for shrinkage.

 

The defendant has failed to show that any such exceptional circumstances existed in his case.

 

The defendant’s claim to an allowance in respect of shrinkages fails as regards both cocoa and palm kernels and the plaintiffs are entitled to the full amount agreed upon.

 

 

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