Crash victims win suit against insurer

Paul Waweru | NATION
From left: Lawyers David Mwangi Mugo, Patrick Ngunjiri and Paul Muite in a Nairobi court on March 1, 2011 during the hearing of an application by over 600 accident victims. The court lifted orders blocking them from pursuing claims from Directline Assurance Limited.

What you need to know:

  • Judges quash court order blocking them from seeking compensation

More than 600 accident victims who had been barred from seeking compensation from an insurance company can now go ahead and do so.

With the latest move, Directline Assurance Company Limited could be forced to part with more than Sh300 million in claims.

This follows a court decision to discharge an order blocking victims from making any claims against the firm.

A two-judge bench comprising justices Nicholas Ombija and Florence Mwilu on Tuesday held that the court which granted the order halting compensation contravened the rules of natural justice by failing to hear the victims’ side of the story.

The two judges also ruled that the insurance company had not raised enough reason to warrant the grant of the order in the first place.

The order had been issued by Lady Justice Jeanne Gacheche last June 24.

The judge issued an interim injunction restraining the applicants and interested parties from executing judgments. She also stopped all proceedings against the insurer countrywide.

On Tuesday, lawyer Paul Muite, representing the victims, urged the court to discharge the order because it was unfair to his clients.

Mr Muite said the orders were granted without hearing his clients’ side of the story despite the fact that they were adversely affected.

The lawyer also argued that the court did not follow the proper rules, which provide that such an order stays in force for 14 days. Instead, he said, the order was to be in force until the case was heard and determined.

This, he said, amounted to embarrassment of the administration of justice.

The order in question was issued on the premise that there were some victims who put in fraudulent claims.

However, Mr Muite said that if that were the case, the insurer should have gone after the individuals and not obtain a blanket order which affects all.

“It is not fair to visit the guilt of a few who are putting in fraudulent claims on thousands of innocent victims,” he said.

The Law Society of Kenya also supported the arguments of the victims, saying the order needed to be lifted.

Through lawyer David Majanja, LSK said that judge Gacheche’s order gave the insurance company immunity against its obligations.

Mr Majanja also said that the order had the implication that members of public do not have any remedy against the insurance company despite it collecting premiums from them.

On it’s part, the insurance company maintained that the order was rightly given and should not be lifted.