Chiyengele and Others v Scaw Limited (Appeal No. 177/2013) [2017] ZMSC 9 (19 January 2017);

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Flynote: 

Flynote: 

Damages - Default judgment - final as to rights to recover damages

Default judgment - admission of legal wrong by Respondent

Damages - plaintiff cannot recover double damages for the same loss

Headnote and Holding: 

This was an appeal against the ruling of the Deputy Registrar at assessment, in which the Deputy Registrar determined that the Appellants were not entitled to recover damages or compensation for loss of employment together with interest and costs consequent upon the entry of a judgment in default of appearance and defence against the Respondent. The Appellants were all employees of the Respondent and were Mine Workers Union of Zambia officials. By letters dated 16 September 2006, the Respondent terminated the Appellants’ employment contracts by reason of redundancy and paid them their respective redundancy dues. Being dissatisfied with their redundancy packages, the Appellants instituted a court action against the Respondent. Judgment in default of appearance was subsequently entered against the Respondent and the Appellants took out an application for the assessment of damages. The assessment application was heard and tried before the Deputy Registrar who found that all the Appellants had their employment contracts terminated by way of redundancy and that they were all paid their redundancy benefits.

Held

  1. Judgment in default of appearance and defence which was entered in favour of the Plaintiffs and which remained unchallenged was final as to the right of the plaintiffs to recover damages, which damages were to be assessed.
  2. The default judgment meant that the Respondent had admitted having committed a legal wrong or injury against the Plaintiffs. Furthermore, it meant that the Appellants became entitled to compensation for losing their jobs.
  3. A plaintiff cannot recover double damages for the same loss.
  4. The entry of the default judgment entitled the Appellants to damages (notwithstanding the compensation which the Appellants received for the loss of their jobs by way of redundancy payments) despite their failure to prove the loss/damage which they had suffered when they lost their jobs. The Court below should have affirmed the infraction of the Appellants’ legal rights by granting them nominal relief in the form of nominal damages.
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