Counsel prays court to dismiss N10m damages suit against Oxford Dictionary

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A defendant counsel, Mrs Olufunke Adekoya, SAN,  on Wednesday urged an Igbosere High Court, Lagos to strike out a N10million lawsuit against Oxford University Press, publisher of Oxford Dictionary, over an alleged wrongful definition of the words “mortgagee’’ and “mortgagor” in the dictionary.

NAN reports that a legal practitioner, Ogedi Ogu, through his lawyer, Emmanuel Ofoegbu, claimed that he was embarrassed and suffered a loss of reputation as a lawyer when he relied on the definitions of the words in Oxford Dictionary, which, he claimed, were found to be incorrect.

The claimant said that he bought the dictionaries because of the assertions written on the cover, “an authoritative, up-to-date, easy to use and world’s most trusted dictionaries” respectively.

The claimant, however, said that he relied on the definitions of the words ‘mortgagor’ and ‘mortgagee’ in given legal opinions to his professional colleagues.

The claimant said his professional colleagues discovered the wrong definitions which he used and stopped asking for his opinion on any legal issues.

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Ofoegbu said he therefore wrote the defendants who admitted the wrong definitions in the two dictionaries but denied any liability.

Consequently, the claimant filed a legal action against the defendants: University of Oxford and Oxford University Press.

At the resumed hearing on Wednesday, counsel to the defendants, Adekoya,  filed a preliminary objection urging the court to strike out the name of her client in the suit, arguing that her client (Oxford University Press) was a non-juristic person without a separate legal existence.

According to her, the second defendant is a department of the first defendant, therefore cannot be sued.

She also argued that “even if the second defendant can be sued, the claimant has failed to comply with Order 5 Rule 1 (2) of High Court Civil Procedure rules 2019, by failing to endorse the writ of summons as a writ for service outside jurisdiction in accordance to Sheriffs and Civil process Act 2004.

“Therefore, the said writ is incurably defective and liable to be set aside.

“We urge your lordship to uphold the preliminary objection for want of jurisdiction”.

In his response, counsel to the claimant, Mr Ogu, said that the preliminary objection was incompetent because it was filed in breach of Order 15 Rule 17(1) of the High Court Civil Procedurerules 2019.

He argued that the requirement of endorsement for service outside jurisdiction does not apply to the writ of summons in the instant case.

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Ogu also argued that the second defendant was a juristic personality.

He said that the court could infer the juristic personality of the second defendant through an exhibit before the court which was authorised by the second defendant’s group legal director.

He, therefore, urged the court to discountenance the preliminary objection so the parties could proceed with the main issues to determine the merit of the case.

After listening to all the arguments, Justice I. Harrison adjourned the case until May 18 for ruling.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the claimant in his statement of claim is asking the court for declarations that the definitions of the words “mortgagor and mortgagee are wrong.

He is also asking for an order directing the defendants to publish notice of the wrong definitions of the words complained of and the correct definitions of the words in their official websites so users may know the correct definitions.

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He is also asking for an order directing the defendants to ensure that all their dictionaries have a caveat to the effect that their dictionaries are only reference tools.

Also an order directing the defendant to pay N10 million to the claimant as damages for loss of professional esteem. (NAN)

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