LEC loses appeal against ruling

MASERU — The Lesotho Electricity Corporation (LEC) has lost an appeal against paying damages to a student who was electrocuted by a cable in Mazenod in 1997.
Thabo Ramokhosi claimed damages against the LEC amounting to M241 181 as a result of the severe injuries that he suffered.
He claimed that the electricity corporation had been negligent and was therefore liable for damages.
He filed the claim in August 2004 but the matter was only heard on 23 February 2008.
In a judgment delivered earlier this year High Court Judge Nts’abeng Gabriel Mofolo ruled that the electricity corporation had been negligent.
He said the firm had not taken any precautions after the power cable was hanging precariously after it was struck by lightning.
“There can be no doubt that the plaintiff suffered excruciating pain and he is entitled to damages he claimed in his papers,” said the judge.
The LEC however appealed against the judgment.
The LEC argued that the trial court “found against it on the basis of causes of action not specifically pleaded by the respondent”.
Ramokhosi, a then 15-year-old, was a student at Mazenod Vocational School when he was electrocuted by a fallen electrical cable on 1 September 1997.
The court heard that the electric pole had been struck by lightning a few days earlier on 29 August 1997.
“Despite notification by the public the defendant failed to disconnect the electric cable which was loose and hanging . . .
“Defendant has therefore unlawfully and negligently failed to disconnect the said electric cable. As a result the plaintiff suffered severe bodily injury; he lost an arm, a toe and sustained severe burns.”
He sued the LEC for the suffering and pain as well as medical expenses that he incurred from the incident.
In a judgment delivered last Friday, Justice Jeremy J Gauntlet said on the basis of the “evident failure to ensure proper earthing of the pole, the appellant was negligent, and his negligence caused electrocution of the respondent and his consequent injuries”.
“There was no attempt by the appellant in evidence to establish that it had taken reasonable steps to install that basic safety measure, the need for which was implicitly conceded by its counsel, or to maintain it,” Justice Gauntlet said.
“In these circumstances, it was in my view sufficiently established that the appellant was negligent at least as regards its unexplained failure either to earth the pole in question, or to check and maintain the functioning of the earth.”
 He said there was no dispute that the appellant “owed a legal duty to members of the public, and more particularly a schoolchild like the respondent, to act without negligence, i.e. to take such steps as may have been reasonable in the circumstances to prevent them from suffering harm,” said the judge.
“The appeal is dismissed with costs,” Justice Gauntlet said.

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