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Former staff sues oil company, claims N500 million for negligence

By Kayode Matthew

A former staff of Shell Petroleum Development Company, Mrs Sheri King and her 17 year old son, Opeyemi King have filed an action against the oil company and one of its medical staff, Dr Fred Eigbe claiming N500 million jointly and severally for personal injuries, loss, pain and suffering caused by negligence of the company’s medical centre in their treatment.

In her statement of claim filed by the law firm of Akin Ibidapo-Obe, Mrs King averred that while she was in the employment of Shell Petroleum, she utilised exclusively the company’s medical services.

She said having attended pre-natal care at Shell Medical Centre throughout her pregnancy, she fell into labour in the early hours of November, 1 1992 and was rushed to the medical centre at 2.a.m. but “surprisingly there was no medical doctor/gynaecologist/obstetrician on duty to cater to the obvious emergency and was left to the second-level medical attention of nurses/midwives who could only conduct routine procedures.

It was only when the medical officer arrived ten hours later and physically took charge belatedly that he noticed that the unborn child had suffered acute distress during the prolonged labour as a result of a prolapsed cord and immediately ordered on a caesarian operation to be carried out on her”.

The doctor subsequently directed that the new-born child should be transferred to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) for further treatment.

According to the claim, “as the 2nd claimant (Opeyemi King) developed, he was unable to achieve the usual milestones of childhood- crawling, walking, talking and was constantly having violent convulsions, vomiting, irritability, weak muscular activity and lack of mental capacity for which she was taken to the Shell Medical Centre incessantly.  “At the age of six years, the 2nd claimant had never walked because his muscles had not developed.

The 1st defendant called a meeting of its medical, administrative and legal managers to discuss with the 1st claimant and essentially to dissuade and overawe her into relinquishing or abandoning any legal claims or demands on the 1st defendant”.

The statement of claim further stated that “the 1st defendant through De A.O. Alakija, its Chief Medical Officer, and in continuation of its scheme to confuse the true cause of 2nd claimant‘s medical condition in order to avoid legal liability the invited the 1st claimant to sign a document absolving the 1st defendant from liability for 2nd claimant’s condition. When she requested to seek advice on the contents of the document she was denied, so she refused to sign the document and as a result , the 1st defendant withdrew its funding of the 2nd claimant’s therapy at the Child Development Centre”.

In her particulars of injuries, Mrs King said “the 2nd claimant has suffered permanent disability, hardship, loss of life prospects, pain and suffering from birth and for a continuous period of 17 years due to the said negligent acts of the 1st and 2nd defendants and their agents, which damages is assessed at N250 million.

The 2nd claimant has suffered permanent physical and mental disability and complete loss of Life Prospects as a result of the negligence of 1st and 2nd defendants. Damages to the 2nd claimant as a result of the negligence of 1st and 2nd defendants is assessed at N250 million.

The 1st claimant has suffered loss and pain due to the unnecessary invasive surgery of a caesarian section, had been saddled with a severely damaged child who is now a helpless adolescent for life and continuous physical and mental pain and suffering due to the negligent acts of the 1st and 2nd defendants and their agents, assessed at N250 million.

In her statement on oath, Mrs Sheri King averred further that “the supposedly first-rate medical attention provided for its employees by the 1st  Defendant Company was one of the attractions of my said employment and I completely trusted and relied on the competence and skill of its employees/agents and the quality of its medical equipment and facilities.

She further said that “while I was still in a weak and semi-conscious state from the surgery I was told by the 2nd Defendant that my child had been transferred to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital for further treatment.

Even though I requested for an explanation or the reasons for his transfer to LUTH  and the details of his medical condition, the 2nd Defendant was evasive and vague and did not provide any precise and detailed information to me.

“When I inquired from my husband whether he had been informed of the details of my child’s medical condition, he told me and I verily believe him. that the doctor had been evasive and unable or unwilling to give him the required information.

“The caesarian section done on me was very painful and saddening because it was due to the absence of qualified medical help at the critical time of my labour”, he added.


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