GT Bank Hooked in US$100M Damages Lawsuit

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GT Bank Liberia managing director, Ayodeji Bejide, allegedly injured employee Edward Freeman by throwing a calculator at him, causing a serious injury to his lips.

Judge Dunbar says there is no way the bank can argue that it is not vicariously liable

Having contested against its inclusion into a US$100 million in damages brought by Edward Freeman, an employee of Guaranty Trust Bank (GT Bank), against the bank’s managing director Ayodeji Bejide, a Nigerian national, the Civil Law Court ‘B’ at the Temple of Justice on Wednesday, January 16, said the bank must be liable for the injury inflicted on Freeman.

On Tuesday, August 28, 2018, because of fear of dismissal, Freeman shared a video on Facebook where he was bleeding from his lips in Bejide’s office, after Bejide reportedly threw a calculator at him.

The video went viral, prompting officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) to arrest Bejide. Bejide was subsequently charged him with aggravated assault and forwarded to the Monrovia City Court.

While the matter was pending before the court, Freeman, through his lawyer Arthur Johnson, filed an Action of Damages lawsuit, seeking US$100 million from both Bejide and the bank’s management, of which the bank had prayed the court to remove its name from the lawsuit.

Bejide, who was released on a US$50,000 bail in order to seek medical attention in Nigeria, and was expected to return in two weeks, is yet to return.

Denying the bank’s contention in court, Judge Scheaplor R. Dunbar said the bank was liable in damages for the injury Freeman sustained. “As such, the bank is an indispensable party as a defendant in this case,” Dunbar said.

“There is no way the bank can argue that it is not vicariously liable for the injury inflicted on Freeman by its then managing director, Bejide,” the Judge ruled.

Judge Dunbar, who is yet to hear the merit and demerit of the lawsuit, however, said it was the bank that employed defendant Bejide, and subsequently brought him to Liberia to serve as its managing director.

“The wrongful conduct of assault on Freeman was carried out by Bejide on the bank’s premises during normal working hours, and in the ordinary and normal cause of duty,” Dunbar said, defending his decision to deny the bank’s argument.

Before Dunbar’s decision, the bank had argued that Freeman’s accusation that it was a party to the defendant was without any iota of truth because it was a mere allegation.

“This is a settled principle of law that every allegation must be supported by proof, and that mere allegation is not sufficient to hold a party liable,” the bank argued.

The bank contended that the belief that it was a party was mere speculation, assumption and unfounded in law.

They also argued that if it had authorized the act of the defendant, it should have been investigated by the LNP officers and brought under the jurisdiction of the Monrovia City Court, “which is a clear indication that it did not authorize the alleged act of the defendant,” according to the bank.

It may be recalled that when the incident was released on social media, there were reactions from several institutions and GT Bank.

A statement issued last evening by the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) announced that Bejide has been suspended for time indefinite from the bank, with immediate effect and without pay, “pending a thorough investigation by the Board into the allegations.”

In the meantime, CBL has appointed Amazu Nwachukwu, GT Bank’s Chief Operating Officer, as Acting MD until the investigation is concluded.

The release quoted Nathaniel R. Patray, III, Chairman of the Board of Governors and Executive Governor of CBL, that the appointment of Mr. Nwachukwu will remain in force until the conclusion of the investigation; submission to the CBL within 48 hours of the Board’s intended course of action to address “this grave matter.”

The CBL “will henceforth review the GT Bank Board’s recommendations. Thereafter, it will ensure the strictest implementation of the Bank’s mitigating actions.”

According to the Central Bank of Liberia, the GT Bank Board has conveyed its deep regrets for the alleged incident and has further informed the CBL that a senior executive from its parent company, GT Bank Nigeria, will arrive in Liberia on Wednesday, August 29, 2018, to assist in the investigation.

Labor Minister’s position statement

The Ministry of Labor (MoL) has also condemned Bejide’s action, terming it as “unacceptable.”

“We are not only deeply concerned by Bejide’s alleged action, but have also contacted the Ministry of Justice through the LNP to thoroughly investigate the matter,” the ministry said.

MoL further said that in keeping with the relevant procedural laws of Liberia where criminal actions take precedence over civil actions, the ministry will be informed of the outcome of the ongoing criminal investigation into the matter.

Meanwhile, the ministry noted that the Decent Work Act of Liberia in Section 14.3 (d) reserves its most severe sanctions for persons who breach the fundamental rights of another employee or attacks, batters, threatens, or intimidates his or her co-workers.

The ministry said it will not hesitate to effect the utmost penalties on persons who flagrantly violate the Decent Work Act, and calls on all employers and employees to behave in keeping with the law.

Author

  • Anthony Kokoi is a young Liberian sports writer who has an ever-growing passion for the development of the game of football (soccer) and other sports. For the past few years, he has been passionately engaged in reporting the developments of the game in the country. He is an associate member of the Sports Writers Association of Liberia (SWAL). He is a promoter of young talents. He also writes match reports and makes an analysis of Liberian Football.

12 COMMENTS

  1. The Liberian government should work with INTERPOL(And the Nigeria security agencyies) to have this so-called Bank Manger return to Liberia to face charges of aggressive assault.

  2. This claim of $100 Million is like shooting for the sky and if you miss, perhaps you land on the moon. What lawyer in his right mind would advise his lawyer to sue for $100 Million when he knows it’s an untenable claim. This guy should find a better lawyer.

  3. Well, bank officials at GT ought to stop praying because their bank will pay some money to Freeman. It may not be the 100 million bucks which is being sought by Freeman. At the judge’s discretion, a lesser amount of money could be paid. So, instead of praying, it makes sense for plans to be made by bank officials for a withdrawal. Freeman sustained injury while at work by Bejide, a bank official. The GT bank is somehow blameworthy.

    Missing in Liberia is Bejide. Bejide is out of Liberia and possibly out of Nigeria because a dishonorable Liberian Magistrate named Kennedy Peabody unilaterally granted permission for Bejide to go to Nigeria in order to get a medical treatment. This is one of the areas where this bizaare story becomes whammier. Bejide struck a surbordinate at work. But after that, Bejide became ill mysteriously. No Liberian was told what caused Bejide’s illness. In fact, no one knows what’s. really wrong with the ungentleman. No Liberian doctor was called in to do a free association. Just two individuals: Bejide and Kennedy Peabody, the dishonorable magistrate felt that medical treatment would be provided in Nigeria.

    Is GT Bank culpable in this story?
    This is up to the reader’s interpretation. The question is this…was Bejide authorized by GT Bank to travel abroad? Or the did GT Bank officials negotiate Bejide’s departure?

  4. A foreign MD of a bank assaults an employee and flees jurisdictiction while on bail, therefore, victim takes a civil action against their employer, GT Bank, which knew background of absconded assailant and had secured work visa for him: Reasonable. The question, then, becomes, where did that idea come from to sue for USD $100 Million? Don’t get me wrong, I’m as outraged as others by aggravated assault on the job, especially, at the hand of a stranger and boss who should know about anger management, sensitivity to local feelings, and legal consequences.

    But these boneheaded bonanza sums plaintiffs habitually ask for have negative effects. For instance, because of ludicrous amounts courts in the State of Alabama award plaintiffs in medical malpractice and other cases, some of the best doctors in the US won’t accept jobs there and few companies have relocated their corporate offices elsewhere thus impacting local employment. Liberia needs investors and perception of legal extortion definitely undermines a policy aspiration, and that’s not quantum physics.

    Meanwhile, there is a circus in another court where former Rep Torkpah Mulbah filed for USD $10 million against “Hot Pepper” editor Philbert Browne who published an article that the legislator and his colleagues were seen sharing alleged missing L$ 16 billion. If you ask me, that’s libel and a civil suit an apt recourse. But why did he ask for USD $10 million to convey impression of media intimidation? Probable outcome: A case to serve as a deterrence for deliberate media ethical violation might deflate under the weight of another unreasonable demand.

    Change should come, people, with responsibility and peace and must not leave us in pieces: To be forewarned, is to be forearmed.

    • Don’t forget to add the other pie-in-the-sky fisherman who sued Brussels Airlines for ($5M?), over a missing luggage! Never mind the conventional caveat or advisory by most airlines to travelers that they will pay only up to few hundred dollars, not even up to $500. Even the potential value of the guy filing this law suit plus his lawyer, in terms of their net worth could not add up to $US1M dollars, and here they are praying for the spirits of Franklin and Grant (as in US 100 & 50 dollar bills) to deliver them from their trespasses. Or is it drudgery? They will stay long inside.

  5. Our country is a big joke. Freeman will not get $500,000 in any US court for that assault not to speak of a $100000000. Perhaps they meant a $100000000 LD an amount that is still huge for a poverty stricken country like Liberia.

  6. I totally agree with S.G. Moses, Synder, Tarr, and others. GT Bank may not have 25 million US dollars in assets. So a suit for 100 million US bucks will not slice the ice. It’s a joke! Of course, bank officials may have worked behind the scenes in order to wisk Bejide out of the country. But still, a hundred-million-dollar suit is unwise and unwinnable. A 25,000-dollar settlement is reasonable.

    On the other hand and knowing something about the judicial system, the hearing judge could go nuts and approve of a rediculous amount that could hit the ceilings. But, if the bank liquidates its assets and closes its doors, unemployment will come about. So, are we in a quagmire yet?
    We’ll see.

  7. Who wants to be a millionaire? Just file an outrageous lawsuit in Liberia.

    This new get-rich-quickly multi-million dollar lawsuit scheme for minor infractions in Liberia is outrageous!

    These astronomical million dollar lawsuits have the tendency to frighten potential investors who are planning to do business in Liberia. Yes indeed, there are legitimate lawsuits that require just and reasonable compensations.

    However, who in their right mind would want to do business in Liberia if they are going to be asked by the courts to pay so many million dollars in damages that have the potential to bankrupt any business in a poor country like Liberia?

    Are these Liberian lawyers and judges not shooting themselves in the foot, at the same time begging investors to come and invest in Liberia?

    A US$100 million dollar lawsuit is almost 1/6 of Liberia’s entire fiscal budget. I guess with the scarcity of jobs in Liberia, million dollar lawsuits is a new way of becoming an overnight millionaire in Liberia.

    Who wants to be a millionaire? Just file an outrageous lawsuit in Liberia

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