Court awards ex-De La Rue worker Sh19m for job loss

Former National Treasury CS Henry Rotich (right) with De La Rue chief executive Martin Sutherland (centre) and commercial legal director Douglas Denham (second left) when they signed a joint venture between the government and the firm at Treasury Building in 2016. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • He was employed by De La Rue in 1998 as a general worker but was promoted over the years to become a vault porter in the security materials department.
  • In cross-examination, the doctor said the De La Rue ex-employee’s injuries were caused by lifting of heavy loads, a common cause of disc dehydration.

A former employee of De La Rue Currency and Security Print Ltd, who earned a monthly salary of Sh41,000, has been awarded Sh19 million by a court for wrongful dismissal.

Mr David Nzioka was wrongfully dismissed by De La Rue on April 8, 2008 on medical grounds after he became incapacitated following an injury in his lower back while counting papers on the vaccumatic machine in the vault.

After his sacking, Mr Nzioka instituted a legal suit against De La Rue on October 12, 2009 seeking general damages for pain and suffering, loss of earning capacity and future medical expenses.

He argued that he was never trained on how to lift reams of printing notes on the manual counting machine as required. This is what formed the basis of the court case that will transform his life.

Mr Nzioka told the court that he was sent packing following the accident, which occurred while he was working in the company’s strong room.

He was employed by De La Rue in 1998 as a general worker but was promoted over the years to become a vault porter in the security materials department.

Dr Oluoch Olunya, who conducted surgical treatment on Mr Nzioka, assessed him and found he had suffered 100 per cent incapacity and observed that the sacked worker would require future surgeries.

Pain management

Dr Olunya, a consultant neurosurgeon and a professor at the University of Nairobi, informed the court that Mr Nzioka was physically incapacitated and would require continued pain management.

He also stated Mr Nzioka would require further medical interventions accompanied by more implants to continue with his therapy.

In cross-examination, the doctor said the De La Rue ex-employee’s injuries were caused by lifting of heavy loads, a common cause of disc dehydration.

The doctor’s projection on Mr Nzioka’s future medical costs of Sh7.6 million was not controverted and therefore, High Court judge Joseph Sergon awarded him Sh6.8 million.

Justice Sergon further ordered De La Rue to pay Mr Nzioka Sh1.5 million as general damages for pain and suffering and Sh10.7 million for loss of earning, bringing the total lump sum award to Sh19 million.

“The medical evidence presented shows Mr Nzioka suffered injuries and as a consequence, he cannot walk and will never work. He deserves the award,” ruled justice Sergon.

The ex-worker stated that after termination of his employment, he was not given any compensation despite De La Rue promising that they would cater for his future medical expenses.

“I am incapacitated and I cannot engage in any physical activity. I continue to suffer from back pain,” he told justice Sergon.

The judge said the plaintiff had established that his former employer had breached duty of care owed to him.

“Had Mr Nzioka not sustained the injuries complained of, he would have been physically fit to work for up to 60 years, all other factors remaining constant,” said the judge. He was 38 at the time of the accident.

Vault machine

Responding to the suit, the company’s human resource officer, Mr James Mbugua disagreed with Mr Nzioka that he had not been trained on handling the vault machine, saying he underwent training organised by Ms Everlyn Nasiyo.

But in his evidence during cross-examination, Mr Mbugua admitted he did not have any document to show that Mr Nzioka underwent training.

He further stated that the company’s insurer, Charties Insurance, refused to cover his injuries on claims that the employee had a prior-existing medical condition.

Doctor Peter Wambugu, who appeared as De La Rue’s witness, said Mr Nzioka was haemangioma, which was hereditary and he could not be covered by medical insurance.

He stated Mr Nzioka suffered from prolapsed intervertebral, which occurred when the disc slipped and pressed a nerve.

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