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BRITISH WEST AFRICAN INSURANCE SERVICES, LTD. v. ABDILMASIH


  • New
  • 1959-04-16
  • HIGH COURT
  • GLR 188-190
  • Print

SMITH J.


Summary

Ghana agents of United Kingdom firm?-Liability of former for local judgment?-Debts of latter?-Execution of writ of fi. fa. no trespass.

Headnotes

The British West African Insurance Services, Limited, were the sole managing agents in Ghana for the Gresham Fire and Accident Insurance Society, Limited. Under a Power of Attorney authority was given to the British West African Insurance Services Limited, inter alia "to appear and represent the Society in any Court or Courts of Law or Equity in the said Territories aforesaid and there to sue or be sued and to answer, defend and reply to all matters and causes touching and concerning the premises or any action or actions, suit or suits, matter or thing that may be sued or prosecuted by or against the Society touching or concerning the premises AND, for that purpose or any other purpose, to accept on behalf of the Society service of process and notices required to be served on the Society AND to submit on behalf of the Society to the laws and customs of the said Territories aforesaid AND ALSO to do, say, pursue, implead, seize, sequester, arrest, attach and imprison and out of prison again to deliver."On the 13th June, 1958 Ollennu J. had given judgment in favour of the plaintiffs in the case of Abdilmasih, trading as J. J. Abdilmasih and Sons vs. The Gresham Fire and Accident Insurance Society Limited by its agents the British West African Insurance Services Limited. On the 14th July, 1958, the judgment-debt of 8,154 3s. 5d. not having been discharged, the Solicitor for the judgment-creditors instructed the Deputy Sheriff to levy execution on the office-equipment of the judgment-debtor, namely files, books, desks, cabinets, etc.A writ of fi. fa. was duly issued, but, in spite of the instructions given, it was made out for the seizure of the movable and immovable properties of the judgment-debtor. The bailiffs went to the premises of the British West African Insurance Services, Limited, in the afternoon of 14th July, 1958 to execute this writ. They entered the premises in company of a Mr. Audi (son-in-law of Mr. Abdilmasih).The writ of fi. fa. was read by Mr. Barton, the Manager of the Company. He explained that his Company were only the agents of Greshams, that the judgment-debt was against Greshams and that the premises and office equipment were the sole property of his Company. Mr. Barton also explained that he was filing a motion for payment of the judgment-debt into Court pending appeal - a matter with which the bailiffs said they were not concerned. They sealed up the premises on their own initiative by locking and sealing the doors, it being too late in the day to do anything about the seizure of the movable goods.So far as Mr. Audi's part in the execution of the writ of fi. fa. was concerned, he had accompanied the bailiffs to the premises in question, and had informed them that the premises were those of Greshams Fire Accident Insurance Services, Limited. He told them to do their duty, and to carry on with the execution. He also said that the plaintiff could take any action he wanted to take.[p.189]The judgment-debt was met by cheque, dated 18th July, 1958 and payable to the Registrar of the Supreme Court. This cheque was issued (according to the evidence of Mr. Brown, of Barclays Bank) on the instructions of Mr. Barton, and the money came from Mr. Barton's personal account. It was paid into Court the same day, and on that day the premises were released. British West African Insurance Services Limited, had thus been kept out of their office from the afternoon of the 14th July until the 18th July.The Company thereafter instituted the present proceedings against J.J. Abdilmasih, claiming damages in trespass (Suit No. 337/58; Accra).

Judgement

(His lordship stated the facts, and proceeded:-)

So far as the actual execution is concerned, I do not think any liability can be attached to the judgment-creditor in view of the instructions given to the Sheriff, the issue of the writ of fi.fa. and the evidence given by the bailiffs who carried out the execution.

But the main point, in the circumstances of this case, is the question whether execution can be levied against agents in this country of a foreign principal. I have not been cited any authority on the matter. On consideration, however, I have come to the conclusion, on the facts of this particular case, that the execution of the writ of fi.fa. was proper.

The British West African Insurance Services, Limited, are virtually identified in this country with their principals, Greshams of London. Policies are issued, of course, in the name of the principals but the whole business is in the hands of the local agents. Full and wide powers are given under the Power of Attorney, to which I have already referred. To decide, in the circumstances that agents owning property in this country, with the rights and powers given them under the Power of Attorney, should be in the position merely to say to any judgment-creditor, "Collect the debt in London," [p.190] would in my view be wrong and unjust. I agree with the submission of Mr. Akufo-Addo in this case, and I accordingly dismiss the action.

It is unnecessary, in view of my decision, to deal with the question of damages. I will, however, say this. I accept the evidence led by the plaintiff as the effect of the sealing-up of the premises under writ of fi.fa. by court-officials. There would obviously be some loss of business during the four days in question, and damage to reputation and prestige. Among business firms in Accra there was (I accept) some talk about the matter. In particular there was the evidence of Mr. Adair, and the possible loss I cannot put it any higher than to the plaintiff of the marine insurance business, that the transfer of which from his firm to British West African Insurance Services, Limited, was being considered. As against any question of damage, however, there is no doubt that by their conduct the British West African Insurance Services, Limited, to a great extent brought all this trouble on themselves, and had my decision been the other way, the damages would have been nominal.

Decision

<P>Judgment for defendants.</P>

Plaintiff / Appellant

A. G. Heward-Mills

Defendant / Respondent

Akufo-Addo

Referals

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