A. J. G. WILLIAMS and SIERRA LEONE DEVELOPMENT COMPANY (024)  SLSC 23 (05 June 1961);
Plaintiff entered into a written agreement with defendant whereby he was to undergo training as laboratory technician in Scotland for 12 months at a salary of £450 a year payable monthly. The agreement further provided that on completion of his training plaintiff was to proceed to the Marampa Mines in Sierra Leone and take up duties as laboratory technician at defendant's hospital there and that he would sign an agreement for service with defendant in Sierra Leone when called upon to do so. When he returned to Sierra Leone, no written agreement was signed, but plaintiff worked as a laboratory technician at defendant's hospital under an oral agreement for a salary of £450 a year. By a letter dated April 28, 1958, defendant's Senior Medical Officer terminated plaintiff's employment as from April 30, 1958. Plaintiff brought suit for damages for wrongful dismissal. Defendant counterclaimed for £72 3s. 11 d. for money loaned to plaintiff and for stores supplied to him at his request. Held, for the plaintiff on his claim and for the defendant on its counterclaim. (1) Plaintiff's summary dismissal was wrongful. (2) Plaintiff's contract of service was an engagement for an indefinite period subject to reasonable notice. (3) As damages, plaintiff was entitled to recover his salary for April 1958 as well as three months' salary in lieu of notice. Cases referred to: Kallay v. United Africa Company Limited, Sierra Leone Supreme Court, June 17, 1960; Sierra Leone and Gambia Court of Appea1, November 2, 1960; Fisher v. W. B. Dick & Co. Ltd.  4 All E.R. 467.
Cyrus Rogers-W right for the plaintiff. Charles S. T. Edmondson for the defendant. MARKE J. The plaintiff claims damages for unlawful dismissal by the defendant company (whom I shall call the company) on the ground that though he was engaged by the company as a laboratory technician, the Senior Medical Officer of the company purported to terminate the plaintiff's employment with the company. The company by paragraph 4 of their filed statement of defence pleaded as follows: "4. In reply to paragraph 4 of the statement of claim the defendants say that by letter dated April 28, 1958, they terminated the plaintiff's employment as from April 30, 1958 and that by another letter of the same date they required the plaintiff to vacate premises which he occupied by reason of his employment not later than May 15, 1958. The defendants further say that on or before April 28, 1958 the defendants offered the plaintiff his salary for the month of April 1958 and a month's salary in lieu of notice but the plaintiff refused to accept same." The defendant counterclaimed the sum of £72 3s. 11d. being amount due the defendant on account of money loaned the plaintiff and for stores supplied him at his request. The plaintiff in his evidence said that he was induced by the company to leave his employment in the United Kingdom where he was earning £15 a week and enter the company's employment on the terms and conditions set out in Exh. " A." By Exh. " A " the plaintiff was to undergo a period of training as laboratory technician in Scotland for 12 months at the company's expense, during which period he was to receive a salary of £450 a year payable monthly in arrear. On the completion of the training the plaintiff was to proceed on the company's direction to Marampa Mines, Sierra Leone, and assume duties as laboratory technician at Marampa Mines Hospital. Paragraph 10 of Exh. " A " states: "10. It shall be understood that you will sign an agreement for service with the ccinpany in Sierra Leone when called upon to do so, the terms of such agreement being in accordance with the general terms and conditions then ruling for African staff." The only evidence in this case was the oral evidence of the plaintiff and certain exhibits put in evidence by both parties, the company not having called any witnesses. It seems clear that Exh. " A " was intended by the parties to cover the plaintiff's employment in the United Kingdom and was never intended to be the agreement under which the plaintiff was to be employed in Sierra Leone. Paragraph 10 of Exh. "A" explicitly provides that the plaintiff was to sign an agreement for service in Sierra Leone when called upon to do so. The plaintiff in his evidence said that in spite of more than one reminder from him to the general manager of the company he was never called upon to sign an agreement as stated in Exh. " A " or any agreement with the company in Sierra Leone. In the absence of anything to the contrary I accept the plaintiff's evidence and find as a fact that this was so. I find also that the plaintiff entered the defendant company's service in Sierra Leone on an oral agreement that he was to work as laboratory technician at the company's hospital at Marampa and receive a salary of £450 per annum
paid monthly in arrear. I can find from the evidence no agreement oral or written as to the length of the plaintiff's engagement by the company: nor any stipulation as to termination of the contract by either party. Learned counsel for the company-that is the defendant in this action-in his address to the court argued that the action was misconceived because dismissal was by a person who had no right to dismiss. It is clear from the evidence that the Senior Medical Officer of the company who purported to dismiss the plaintiff had no power to do so, and it was open to the company, had they wished to do so, to have said so in the pleadings and pursued that line of defence at the hearing. Instead of that the company, that is to say the defendant, elected to adopt as their own the purported dismissal of the plaintiff by their Senior Medical Officer and in paragraph 4 of the statement of defence the company pleaded that, by letter dated April 28,1958, " they " terminated the plaintiff's employment as from April 30, 1958, and that by another letter of the same date " they " required the plaintiff to vacate premises which he occupied by reason of his employment not later than May 1, 1958. The whole action having been conducted on the basis that the company approved the action of their Senior Medical Officer in purporting to dismiss the plaintiff, the company cannot now at the end of the case be heard to say that they reprobated their Senior Medical Officer's action in that regard. The parties to an action are bound by the pleadings which they have filed, after, I presume, most careful consideration of every aspect of the case, and cannot be allowed at this late hour, after the plaintiff had closed his case, to make a departure from such pleadings. I hold that the plaintiff's summary dismissal was wrongful. On the question of damages the plaintiff was engaged for a period the length of which was not stated; there was no stipulation as to the length of notice to be given by either party to terminate the contract. On facts similar to those in a previous case-I refer to the case Kallay v. United Africa Company Limited, Supreme Court, June 17, 1960-1 held that this was a yearly contract. But the Sierra Leone and Gambia Court of .<\ppeal disagreed wnh me, and as long as that decision stands I am bound by it. I therefore hold that the contract of service of the plaintiff was not an engagement for a year but for an indefinite period subject to reasonable notice. On the question of reasonable notice the plaintiff says that he is a trained laboratory technician ; and in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I accept what he says. He says further that in spite of several efforts on his part it took him seven months before he could get employment. It is quite plain and I think one cannot shut one's eyes to it, that openings for the employment of trained laboratory technicians are not as yet many in this country and that it would take some months before such a trained man could secure another employment in Sierra Leone. In Fisher v. Dick & Co. Ltd.  4 All E.R. 467 the court held that three months' notice was reasonable in the case of specialised salesman. That case was followed in Ade Cole v. Freetown City Council by this court and later followed by the West African Court of Appeal in Mason v. Freetown City Council. Ade Cole was a bailiff, and Mason a Treasury Clerk of the City Council. I apply the principle of Fishe.r v. Dick & Co. Ltd., and award the plaintiff his salary for April 1958, and three months' salary in lieu of notice, at £450 per annum.
The plaintiff having admitted the counterclaim there will be judgment for the defendant for £72 3s. lld. The order of the court is : (1) The plaintiff succeeds on his claim. (2) The defendant to pay the plaintiff one month salary for April 1958 and in addition three months' salary in lieu of notice at the rate of £450 per annum. (3) The defendants to pay the costs of this action less such costs as may have been occasioned by the counterclaim. Cost to be taxed. (4) The defendants succeed on their counterclaim. (5) The plaintiff to pay the defendants £72 3s. lld. (6) The plaintiff to pay the defendant the costs on the counterclaim. (7) Costs to be taxed. The costs in this action to be on Supreme Court Scale.
Contract of employment-Period of employment-Damages for dismissal.