The Court of Appeal has ordered Kampala businessman Drake Lubega(pictured) to pay up to the tune of Shs 300million to tenants for illegally closing their shop.
In a unanimous ruling, the court said Lubega had failed to prove that the High Court Judge Elizabeth Jane Alividza had erred in law and fact when she found him liable of causing financial loss to his tenants after closing their shop and selling their merchandise.
“The respondents discharged their burden to prove that the appellant was liable for the loss arising from his actions. Thereafter, it was incumbent upon the appellant to adduce evidence to prove his contention that his actions were in the capacity as an agent or officer of Tesco lndustries Limited, the appellant completely fell short in that aspect. He neither pleaded no adduced any evidence to rebut the respondents’ evidence of personal liability, instead, the appellant opted to raise those issues in the written submissions filed before the trial court.
It further states that in the premises, the trial court cannot be faulted for finding the appellant liable for the closure of the respondents’ shop and conversion of their merchandise…ln a nutshell, the appellant has no valid basis in law and fact to fault the trial judge for holding him personally liable. Grounds 1,2,3,4 and 5 would accordingly fail,” the judgment written by Justice Muzamiru Kibedi reads in part.
However, the judges found that Lubega was able to show that the damages for which he had been ordered to pay were excessive. Hence, they ordered that instead of paying Shs 350 million in exemplary damages he should pay Shs 150million. However, the judges didn’t reduce the Shs 150million that was awarded as general damages.
“The circumstances of this case, the award of the general damages of Shs 150 million was not a manifestly erroneous estimate of the loss and damage suffered by the respondents, and neither was it arrived at based upon wrong principles of law. l, thus, find no reason to fault the exercise of the learned trial judge’s discretion in deciding the way she did. I would accordingly reject the appellant’s complaint in respect thereof,” Kibedi’s judgment reads in part.
Christopher Saazi, who was also a defendant in the High court was a tenant on Plot 6 Nakivubo Road, Kampala. He sublet part of his premises to Teopista Nabbale who was also a defendant in the original suit.
Nabbale sold her space to Lubega Robert who was the first respondent as goodwill at 30million, she subsequently introduced him to Saazi. Lubega also let out part of that space to Megan Joan Namutebi, Josephtne Nassali, Emma Ndugwa, Musa Ndaula and Alex Bwanika all of whom were the respondents in the matter.
All the five used to deal in women clothes and other goods, and would pay their rent to Lubega who would then pay Saazi who would also pay Anil Shamji who was the owner of the building. However, on June 10th, 2014, Anil Shamji wrote a letter addressed to all tenants notifying them that the property comprised in Plot 6 Nakivubo Road was sold to Tesco industries Limited owned by Drake Lubega.
On assuming ownership, Drake Lubega first closed the building and then increased the rent from Shs 2.5million to Shs 5million and asked that all tenants pay six months in advance. The tenants said they couldn’t and asked that their shops be opened so that they remove their merchandise which Drake Lubega refused.
Subsequently, their things were removed and they never recovered prompting them to seek court redress. The hight court ruled in their favour awarding Shs 500million prompting Lubega to appeal the decision which he lost.