UGANDA, Kampala | Real Muloodi News | The Court of Appeal has ruled that Drake Lubega, a prominent Kampala businessman, pays up to USh300 million to the tenants whose shops he unlawfully closed.
In the unanimous ruling in court the High court judge, Elizabeth Jane Alividza found Drake Lubega liable for causing financial loss to the tenants after closing their shops and selling their merchandise.
The Burden of Proof
According to the court, the respondents had discharged their burden of proof, showing that Lubega was liable for the loss arising from his actions.
Lubega had neither pleaded nor adduced any evidence to rebut the respondents’ evidence of personal liability. Instead, he raised the issue in the written submissions filed before the trial court.
The court also found that Lubega failed to prove that he acted as an agent or officer of Tesco Industries Limited. The trial court, therefore, could not be faulted for finding Lubega personally liable.
The ruling in court stated: “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 Industries Limited, the appellant completely fell short in that aspect. He neither pleaded nor 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.”
The judges dismissed all of Lubega’s arguments, which they said failed due to a lack of legal and factual basis.
It further states that “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.
The judges found that the damages for which Lubega had been ordered to pay were excessive, thus reducing the exemplary damages from USh350 million to USh150 million.
However, they didn’t reduce the USh150 million that was awarded as general damages.
In justifying their decision, the judges stated that the award of general damages of USh150 million was not a manifestly erroneous estimate of the loss and damage suffered by the respondents.
They further added that it was not arrived at based on the wrong principles of law. The judges found no reason to fault the trial judge’s discretion in deciding how she did.
“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 was a tenant on Plot 6 Nakivubo Road, Kampala, who sublet part of his premises to Teopista Nabbale. Nabbale subsequently sold her space to Robert Lubega, the first respondent in the matter, as goodwill at USh30 million.
Lubega also let out part of the same space to Megan Joan Namutebi, Josephine Nassali, Emma Ndugwa, Musa Ndaula, and Alex Bwanika, all of whom were the respondents in the matter.
All five respondents dealt in women’s clothes and other goods and would pay their rent to Lubega, who would then pay Saazi, who, in turn, would pay Anil Shamji, the owner of the building.
On June 10, 2014, Shamji wrote a letter addressed to all tenants, notifying them that the property was sold to Tesco Industries Limited, owned by Drake Lubega.
On assuming ownership, Lubega closed the building and increased the rent from USh2.5 million to USh5 million, asking all tenants to pay six months’ rent in advance.
The tenants could not afford this and requested that their shops be opened so that they could remove their merchandise, but Lubega refused.
Their merchandise was later removed and resold, prompting them to seek court redress. The High Court awarded them USh500 million, prompting Lubega to appeal the decision, which he subsequently lost.
The decision clarifies to tenants that they have rights protected by law and that landlords cannot act with impunity.
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