The Civil Law Court ‘A’ at the Temple of Justice has upheld the jury’s unanimous guilty verdict against Access Bank, a major financial institution in the country, ordering it to pay US$56,950 and LD$75,000, as damages for the disgraceful and shameful humiliation Mr. Emmett Yarkpa suffered, at the hands of the bank.
Yarkpa is the owner of Tristar Video Club situated in New Georgia Estate, Gardnersville, outside Monrovia.
He filed a complaint against the bank, alleging that his business in July 2013 executed a credit contract along with a security contract with Access Bank for US$2,000 with 6% interest rate per month and that the said amount was a working capital.
Consequently, Yarkpa claimed, the total principal, interest and penalty amount he should have paid to the bank in nine months’ installment regarding the credit contract was US$2,719.84, and the actual amount he paid from August 2013 up to and including April 2014 was US$2,623.93, remaining US$95.91.
He said he was amazed that employees of the bank in July 2014 walked into his video club and seized all of his equipment, including two Epson projectors, one black Dell Laptop, 34-inch Sony television, three DVD players, amongst others.
He claimed that the bank’s action made him to suffer several injuries, pains, mental anguish and agony because he could not feed his children, aged mother, brother and sisters due to the disgraceful and shameful humiliation.
After hearing and determining the fact in the matter the jury found the bank guilty and recommended that they must be made to pay US$1,950 and LD$75,000 as special damages, US$30,000 as general damages and US$25,000 as punitive damages, totaling US$56,950 and LD$75,000 respectively.
Judge Peter W. Gbeneweleh upheld the verdict and subsequently denied the bank’s request not to accept the jury’s verdict, requesting for a new trial.
Upholding the jury’s unanimous verdict, Judge Gbeneweleh said, “Considering the pleading of the parties (the bank and Yarkpa lawyers) in this action, taking due note of the evidence produced during the hearing of this matter, and in view of the unanimous verdict of liable as returned by the jury, the court adjudged the defendant liable in this case in the amount of US$1,950 and LD$75,000 as special damages, US$30,000 as general damages and US$25,000 as punitive damages.”
Besides, Judge Gbeneweleh added the defendant’s management cannot be the complaining party and at the sometime the judge to complain and gave itself justice through wanton and reckless means.
“We agreed that Yarkpa was in breach of the terms and conditions of the contract, but no one cannot correct wrong with another wrong,” he explained.
According to him, punitive damages are generally described as damages which are given in enhancement merely of the ordinary damages of the wanton, reckless, malicious or oppressive character the acts complained beyond the actual damages suffered in the case’
Therefore, the Civil Law Court Judge said, “punitive damages are allowed as punishment of the defendant and as deterrent to others.”
Explaining whether Yarkpa deserved special damages, Judge Gbeneweleh said that the requirement for establishing damages is that it must be pleaded.
“Yarkpa pleaded the original receipts of the seized and confiscated business equipment. He also annexed prior income generated from his video club for four months to be able to project the income that he lost up and including the time of the filing of his complaint.” Judge Gbeneweleh disclosed, adding, “Those pleaded instruments were duly testified to, identified, marked by court and confirmed by Yarkpa during the direct examination.
“The defendant’s illegal, arbitrary, wanton, wicked and reckless conduct by entering Yarkpa’s video club,” the judge continued, “without any representative of him, seized, confiscated and took possession of his business equipment and remained in possession of same without due process.
“The value of the equipment seized is one hundred percent of the debt owed the defendant bank.”
He therefore ordered the clerk of the court to issue a bill of cost, having the same placed in the hands of the sheriff by the parties and approval by the court and thereafter for satisfaction of the defendant.