Lonestar Communications Corporation (LCC), one of two GSM companies operating in the country, was yesterday hit with a US$311,400 in compensatory and punitive damages after a Civil Law Court jury found the company guilty of deliberately setting ablaze a rented Nissan jeep belonging to Alpha Corporation International (ACI), a car rental service provider.
The jurors awarded US$250,000 as punitive damages, US$60,000 as the actual price of the jeep and US$1,400 as compensation to the plaintiff (Alpha), totaling US$311,400.
They returned the verdict after hours of closed-door deliberations reviewing all oral and documentary evidences presented during the trial by both the LCC and Alpha’s lawyers.
Presiding Judge Yussif Kaba has about five days to confirm the jury’s verdict.
It is not clear whether the judge will reduce the US$311,400 that was awarded by the jury against Lonestar Communication Corporation.
The case started in January of this year, when Alpha Jalloh, the chief executive officer of ACI, filed an “Action of Damage for Wrong” against Lonestar Cell MTN claiming US$250,000 as punitive damages, US$60,000 as the actual price of the jeep and US$1,400 as compensation, totaling US$311,400.
The lawsuit alleged that Jalloh and the GSM Company entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in May of 2015.
In the MOU, the parties (LCC and Alpha) agreed for the company to rent a Nissan jeep from Alpha with a daily payment of US$165.
As part of the agreement, Alpha was going to provide the driver and regular maintenance of the vehicle.
The car was intended for use by one Robert Petiquoi, LCC’s regional supervisor in three of the fifteen counties, namely: Lofa, Bong and Margibi.
The lawsuit further alleged that in May 2016, while traveling from Margibi County to Monrovia with 800 scratch cards and an amount of US$400,000, Petiquoi allegedly conspired with the driver and both men set the vehicle ablaze under the pretense of destroying evidence.
When the incident was reported to the LCC management, the procurement manager of the company immediately contacted Jalloh claiming that the vehicle had burnt as a result of mechanical failure, which they alleged, led to the destruction of the scratch cards and the money.
After receiving the message, Jalloh proceeded to the scene and discovered that the information was not true. Besides, he contacted the Bong County office of the Liberia National Police (LNP) for further investigation.
It was during the investigation that Petiquoi and the driver admitted to burning the vehicle and stealing the items, including the scratch cards and the US$400,000.
However, the LCC management rejected the allegation contending that the incident was a result of mechanical failure; and therefore, not responsible for any damage.