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Collins Iwuoha v. Nigerian Railway Corporation (1997) - SC


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CASE SUMMARY OF:
Collins Iwuoha v. Nigerian Railway Corporation (1997) - SC
by PaulPipAr

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PARTIES
APPELLANT

Collins Iwuoha

v.

RESPONDENT

Nigerian Railway Corporation

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CITATION
(1997) 4 NWLR (Pt.500);
(1997) LPELR-SC.51/1991;

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COURT
Supreme Court of Nigeria

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LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Idris Legbo Kutigi

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Bank: Zenith Bank.
Name: Branham Paul Chima.
Account No.: 2178756839.


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LAWYERS WHO ADVOCATED
FOR THE APPELLANT
- Messrs Adefope & Co.

FOR THE RESPONDENT
- Chief Muoma


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FACT
The facts of the cases were that the plaintiff on 9/3/84 at Aba Railway Station in Imo State, delivered three packages containing wearing apparels to the defendant's servant (D.W.1) for transportation to Bukuru in Plateau State. D.W. 1 said he weighed the three packages and charged the piaintiff N9 .00 (nine Naira) only. The plaintiff paid and the D.W.1 issued him a receipt - a "Way Bill" (Exhibit A in the proceedings). D.W.1 collected the packages and told the plaintiff to report to Bukuru Railway Station the next day to collect the packages. The plaintiff reported at Bukuru Railway Station as directed on 10/3/84. When he got there he could only find the smallest of the three packages. The two big packages were missing and were nowhere to be found. On inquiry, he was told that the two big packages had been stolen by robbers while in transit between Aba and Bukuru. He was advised to search for the missing packages at various Railway Stations. This he did but without success. The plaintiff claimed that the two missing packages contained goods worth N40,500.00 and in a fruitless attempt to trace the packages he incurred out-of-pocket expenses totalling about N1,500.00.
The defendant did not deny receiving the three packages from the plaintiff nor did it deny losing the two big packages. It therefore accepted liability but denied the claim on the ground that the plaintiff did not declare the contents and value of the packages at the time he handed them over to D.W.1 on 9/3/84 at Aba Railway Station. That if he had done so he would have been supplied with a "Form T.C. 30" for completion, and in which cases he would have paid a higher premium than the mere N9.00 he was charged. In fact, the defendant had by letter dated 13th October, 1984, addressed to the plaintiff (Exhibit G) admitted liability for the loss of the packages and relying on the provisions of the Nigeria Railway Corporation Act of 1955 and Tariff No. 9 0f 1981, offered the plaintiff forty Naira (N40.00) only for the loss of the two packages. The offer was rejected by the plaintiff and consequently he instituted this action.

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ISSUE
1. Whether Exhibit A (Way Bill) issued to the appellant by the respondent was an integral part of the contract and whether the respondent can avail itself of the Statutory provisions referred to therein in its defence against the appellant's claims.
2. Whether the fact that the appellant had on previous occasions sent goods through the respondent constituted sufficient notice of the exclusion conditions.

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HOLDING
The Court held for the respondent. It stated, per Idris Legbo Kutigi, JSC. "On the whole, I think in the circumstances, the lower courts were right when they held that Exh. A was the contract between the parties in this cases. The Court of Appeal was also right when it held that the parties were bound by the conditions and or exclusions contained therein and that the appellant had notice or was presumed to have notice of such conditions and or exclusions."
The Court held that the conditions binds the plaintiff.

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REFERENCED
Nigerian Railway Corporation Act, 1955 section 74;
6A(i) & (ii) of the Nigerian Railway Corporation Tariff No. 9 of 1981;

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NOTABLE DICTA
I think the Court of Appeal was right. The notice on Exh. A clearly stated that copies of all statutory provisions referred to therein were available for examination free of charge. It is also contained therein that Exh. A is the evidence of contract as well as acknowledgement of any money paid, which was N9.00 in this cases. There was no evidence from the appellant that copies of the laws, byelaws or tariffs were not available for inspection as stated in Exhibit A. The record also clearly shows that the respondent had consistently not denied liability in the cases but rather had maintained throughout that it was only liable to the tune of N20 per packet in view of the provisions of the said statutory provisions. - Idris Legbo Kutigi, JSC. Iwuoha v. Nigerian Railway Corporation (1997)

The principle or doctrine of incorporation by reference is one that is frequently applied in the construction of documents where from the documents or document produced by the parties, it is clear that some other evidence must have been in the contemplation of the parties. In such a cases the document put forward compels the court to look beyond and ascertain precisely the other evidence which by necessary implication the parties must have had in their minds at the time of the contract. Exh. A in this cases and the evidence given thereon points unequivocally to the laws referred to therein (Exh. A) as forming part of the contract. - Idris Legbo Kutigi, JSC. Iwuoha v. Nigerian Railway Corporation (1997)

The appellant clearly failed to declare the value of the goods but merely weighed them and paid for the weight, and not the value. That was against the laws of the Nigerian Railways. He was bound to fail as he did. - Idris Legbo Kutigi, JSC. Iwuoha v. Nigerian Railway Corporation (1997)

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