Two persons who sustained multiple injuries, as a result of acid that was wasted on their chest and neck by the Task Force commander of the Plant Protection Department (PPD) in September 2013, won a US$2 million damages case against the company last Saturday.
The PPD is Firestone-Liberia’s private security apparatus.
The ruling was brought down by Judge Mardea T. Chenoweth of the 13th Judicial Circuit Court, in Kakata, Margibi County.
The incident took place in September 2013.
Lawyers representing Emmanuel Kollie and George Grigsby instituted an action of “Damages for Wrongful Injuries,” against the Management of Firestone-Liberia, claiming an amount of US$2 million, of which US$750,000 will be awarded to Kollie as general damages.
The lawyers further claimed that US$750,000 should be given to Grisby to help him attend to specialized surgery outside of the country.
Furthered in their complaint, the lawyers prayed the court to hold liable to pay not less than US$500,000 to their clients as punitive and or exemplary damages.
They argued that the US$500,000 is for the suffering, pain, mental anguish of the deliberate and intentional act of cruelty meted against them.
However, Firestone-Liberia’s legal counsel, the Sherman and Sherman Law Firm, admitted that though acid was wasted on the complainants, the amount of damages was more than the injuries sustained.
They also asked the court to dismiss the case.
Surprisingly, at last Saturday’s ruling, Judge Mardea T. Chenoweth was publicly heard saying, “relying on the law regarding general and punitive damages, this court has no alternative but to adjudge Firestone’s management liable.”
Judge Chenoweth further ruled that “Firestone-Liberia is also adjudged to pay to the victims US$1.5 million representing the aggregate of general damages for such a heinous act, and US$500,000 as punitive damages.”
Giving more details about the court’s decision, Judge Chenoweth emphasized that “this court [is] taking recourse to the records; specifically the testimony of Dr. Anthony Quayee’s description of the degree of injuries they sustained. It means that they met the requirements under the law of general and punitive damages.”
Dr. Quayee, who treated the complainants, also testified during the case.
The judge further ruled that the testimonies of Firestone‘s witnesses suggest that they did the act out of malice,” hence punitive damages is appropriate to prevent an arbitrary and unlawful act,” she added.
According to her, if complainants had committed theft and had been arrested, they should have been accorded due process and not have had acid wasted on them.
The case emerged when the victims’ lawyers filed a nine-count complaint alleging that they were arrested on September 28, 2013, by officers of the Plant Protection Department (PPD) of the management of Firestone-Liberia.
Following their arrest, the Task Force Commander of the PPD, Tamba S. Nathaniel, wasted acid on them, and that some bystander, including Nathaniel himself, realizing the pains they were going through, got assistance by using oil and cassava leaves to reduce their pains.
They further alleged that the Task Force commander was an agent of the management of Firestone and as such, the management should be held liable (guilty). Therefore, they prayed the court for judgment of US$2million representing general and punitive damages.
In response, Firestone lawyers filed a 26 count response, admitting that acid was wasted on the men, but it was they who provided cassava leaf to reduce the pains.
They further argued that thieves in the Division 17 area have wasted acid on some of their officers.