Judgment based on admission

Plaintiff has immediate right to judgment for any admitted sum, notwithstanding the existence of a counter-claim.

Arab Chem Ltd. v. Owoduenyi [2013] 10 NWLR (Pt. 1361) 89 at 101-102, paras. H-B, per Orji-Abadua, JCA:

“It must be observed that the fact that there is a counter-claim notwithstanding, the trial court could still enter judgment for the sum already admitted by the defendant. A counter-claim is a claim filed in opposition to another claim in a legal action. Just as a plaintiff who is pursuing a claim may apply immediately for judgment if the defendant’s statement of defence contains an admission of the facts or part of the claims as stated in the plaintiff’s statement of claim, so is the defendant, who is pursing a counter-claim under the Rules of Court entitled to apply immediately for judgment if the plaintiff’s defence or response contains an admission of the facts or part of the claims stated in the defendant’s counter-claim. Why I stated this is that it does not matter that there is a counter-claim, the moment there is an admission by the defendant of part of the plaintiff’s facts under monetary claim, the plaintiff can apply for part judgment in respect of the sum already admitted.”

Blogger’s Note:

In reaching the above decision, the Court of Appeal relied on the cases of Mosheshe General Merchants Ltd. v. Nigeria Steel Productions Ltd. [1987] 2 NWLR (Pt. 55) 110 and I.M.B. Plc v. Comrade Cycle Co. Ltd. [1998] 11 NWLR (Pt. 574) 460.

In the above case of Owoduenyi, the Respondent (as Plaintiff) sued the Appellant claiming his accumulated emoluments and expenses following the termination of his employment. The Appellant filed its defence and also counter-claimed. In its defence, the Appellant disputed the sum stated by the Respondent as his terminal benefits and proceeded to articulate what, in its view, is the actual terminal benefits. The Respondent immediately filed a motion praying the trial Court to enter judgment as per the sum admitted by the Appellant. The learned trial Judge granted the motion. The Appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal arguing that there was no admission in view of other parts of its Statement of Defence as well as its Counter-claim. The Court of Appeal was not persuaded as it upheld the Ruling of the trial Court and further noted that upon entering judgment based on admission of part of the claim, the balance or remainder of the claim clearly disputed can be contested. In other words, entering judgment based on admission does not mean end of proceedings. The plaintiff can proceed to prove the remainder of his claims and the defendant still has opportunity to defend and prove his counter-claim where one is filed.
Our position is that the decision of the Court of Appeal in the above case is a good decision. One lesson learnt is that counsel must be careful in drafting pleadings on behalf of their clients because it is trite that parties are bound by their pleadings and matters admitted by the parties need no further proof.
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