CIV/T/797/86 IN THE HIGH COURT OF LESOTHO
In the matter of
KHABISO SEQOETE PLAINTIFF
THE OFFICER COMMANDING POLICE (MORIJA) 1ST
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL 2ND DEFENDANT
Before the Hon. The Chief Justice, Mr. Justice B.P
Cullinan on the 27th November, 1987
This is a claim for personal injury. Liability has not
been contested and the only issue is quantum of damages.
The plaintiff was at a funeral. An argument developed
between the plaintiff and his two brothers, who had all consumed
decided to take their argument to the police station at
Morija. Upon arrival there the plaintiff's brothers suggested that he
detained overnight, but in the Reception area, rather than the
The plaintiff's brothers departed in a vehicle from the
police station, under protest from the plaintiff. The Officer
the police station then pushed the plaintiff into a
cell, slamming the steel door shut upon him, unfortunately catching
the top portion
of the ring finger of the plaintiff's left hand in
the door frame. The plaintiff cried out in pain, exlaiming that his
being "cut off". The cell door was not opened
however. That was 9 p.m. It remained closed until 6 a.m. the next
During that time the plaintiff cried out repeatedly,
begging for the door to bo opened. The Reception area in the police
was but five metres away. There was a police officer on duty
all night. The plaintiff testified that the distance from the cell
to the Reception area, and the construction of the police
station, was such that the police officer on duty overnight must have
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During the whole night he was obliged to remain standing
in the one position. His finger bled. Blood ran down the doorway and
in a pool on the floor.
When the cell door was opened at 6 a.m. the plaintiff
fell down on the floor in exhaustion. The top portion of his finger
to the doorway frame however - it may be indeed that the
finger completely severed in the fall.
The plaintiff does not recall who opened the cell door.
He remained fallen on the floor in exhaustion for about 30 minutes.
rose and requested the Officer Commanding to be allowed to
proceed to a doctor. The plaintiff testified that the Officer
refused for a long period, about an hour, to release him,
but finally did so
He walked to Scott Hospital in Morija. He was very weak.
At the Hospital his finger was dressed and bandaged, he was given an
and some tablets.
The ,hospital authorities directed him back to the
police station, with a request that the police complete a medical
form, which they
gave the plaintiff, and a request that the police
supply the severed portion of the plaintiff's finger. He conveyed
to the Officer Commanding at the police station. The
laxx refused to complete the form as to the request to supply the
portion of the finger, the Officer Commanding said that "he
did not set that piece".
Subsequently the plaintiff underwent an operation under
local anaesthetic to amputate the remaining portion of the distal
of the injured finger, as the wound thereon was ragged. He
was obliged to attend the hospital for treatment many times over a
of three months.
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The plaintiff is a qualified plumber employed by the
Ministry of Buildings. He lost no salary nor suffered any demotion as
of the injury. There is no medical evidence before me of any
degree of disability or any prognosis as to future disability. The
testified that it takes him longer to do some jobs, such as
putting threads on pipes and flashing on roofs. The point is that the
plaintiff has lost one of 28 phalanxes of his 10 fingers He is
right-handed He is in permanent and pensionable employment with
The degree of disability, if any, can only be minimal.
There is no evidence of loss of amenities.
Neither Counsel are aware of any local authority in the
matter. Reference has been made to two South African authorities, but
greater injury to the fingers was suffered in both cases.
Some assistance is to be found in Vol. I of Kemp &
Kemp on The Quantum of Damages. I regret that the only volume
me is the second edition (1961) of that excellent work,
which by now must surely be regarded as the hand-book of all lawyers
injury claims There is a useful table at p.498 of Vol.1
dealing with awards in cases of injury to fingers and thumbs. Three
in particular are cited, namely Burgess v Union-Castle Mail
Steamship Co. Ltd. (1955)1 Lloyd's Rep 262 (2/3/55 per Devlin J),
Morgan v Swift (1956) CA No.12 (17/1/56 per Hodson L.J.) and
Harris v Harris (1977) C.A. No. 205 (per Hodson L.J.). A
report of those cases can be found at pp 523/526 of Kemp & Kemp.
In the first and third
of those cases the plaintiff lost one phalanx,
in the second case the plaintiff lost two phalanxes. The average
award in the three
cases was over £400. Those awards took place over
30 years ago however, and an equivalent award today would be
somewhere in the
region of, say, £1000, or, say not less than M3000.
Doing the best I can, as the assessment of damages in cases of
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injury is an extremely difficult task, I propose to
award that amount to the plaintiff in respect of the loss of the
phalanx of his
The awards cited seemingly included an award in respect
of pain and suffering, as there was seemingly no separate award under
head. The pain and suffering of the plaintiff on the facts of
the present case however, in my judgment call for an award under a
separate head. The plaintiff must have suffered continuous
unrelenting severe pain. He was obliged to stand in one position for
hours, in order to avoid further injury to his finger. He bled
copiously. He suffered from exhaustion. He then suffered the pain
an amputation and the renewal of numberous dressings to his finger.
In my view those facts call for an award much greater than
average award for pain and suffering. In all the circumstances I
would consider an award of M2000 to be equitable.
I therefore give judgment to the plaintiff in the
Loss of phalanx of finger M3000Pain and
I award costs to the plaintiff.
B.P. CULLINAN CHIEF JUSTICE
For the Plaintiff Mr. S. Phafane For the
Respondent Mr. T. Mohapi
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