Z. A. BALOGUN (APPELLANT)
KUNLE ALAKIJA (RESPONDENT)
(1963) All N.L.R. 609
Division: High Court of Lagos
Date of Judgment: 20th October, 1963
Case Number: (Appeal No. LD/78A/63)
Before: De Lestang, C.J.
Appeal from magistrate's court.
The appellant was a rent collector who had collected the rents of the respondent's property but failed to render an account despite several requests by the respondent. The appellant had his office in his dwelling house. One night the respondent called on the appellant at his house after business hours to demand an account. The respondent was allowed in and was told by the appellant to go and to return the next day. The respondent became annoyed and held on to the appellant and abused him. The respondent however, left about fifteen minutes after he was asked to go. The appellant felt insulted and thereupon brought this action in the magistrate's court for damages for trespass.
On the above facts the trial Magistrate held that:
(1) the respondent was an invitee since he knocked at the door and was asked inside and since his call was one of common interest to both parties;
(2) the fact that he assaulted and abused the appellant did not make him a trespasser, and
(3) the fact that he remained on the premises for fifteen minutes after being requested to leave did not constitute him a trespasser.
He thereupon dismissed the appellant's claim. The appellant appealed to the High Court.
Where a person is lawfully on the premises of another once his Licence or invitation is terminated he is only allowed a reasonable time in which to leave and thereafter he becomes a trespasser. In the present case since the respondent, though lawfully on the premises, refused to go when asked to do so, he became a trespasser.
APPEAL from magistrate's court.
Alli-Balogun (Adagun with him) for the Appellant.
Cole (Akinsanya with him) for the Respondent.
De Lestang, C.J.:-This is an appeal by a plaintiff from the dismissal of his claim for damages for trespass against the defendant.
The plaintiff is a rent collector who had collected the rents of the defendant's property but failed to render an account despite several requests by the defendant. The plaintiff lives at No. 2 Branco Street, Lagos, and has his office in his dwelling house. During the night of the 16th September, 1962, the defendant called on the plaintiff at his house to demand an account. The plaintiff's claim arises out of this visit. His case was that it was 1:20 am and he was in bed when the defendant came and knocked at the door. The plaintiff enquired who it was and on the defendant identifying himself he opened the door. The defendant came in, held him by his loin cloth and demanded an account of the rents the plaintiff had collected for him there and then and began pushing the plaintiff about. The plaintiff told him to go away and to come to his office in the morning. The defendant did not leave immediately he went on shouting and abusing the plaintiff until the plaintiff's wife intervened. He left about 15 minutes after being told to go. He returned again after 30 minutes kicked the door, which was closed but not locked, open and again pushed the plaintiff about. Where upon the plaintiff phoned for the police and detained the defendant until the police came.
The defendant's version was that he called on the plaintiff at his house at 10:30 pm to demand an account of the rent collected. The plaintiff told him to wait and he waited on the road where he had parked his car in front of plaintiff's house. After some time the plaintiff came out and spoke to him near the car and told him to wait. Subsequently three boys appeared and the defendant suspected that the plaintiff was trying to get boys to beat him up. So he left and went to the police station. At the police station he was told that the police had already gone to the premises and he returned there. He denied ever assaulting the plaintiff or forcing the door open.
The learned Magistrate was not impressed by the evidence of either the plaintiff or the defendant. He considered the plaintiff's version grossly exaggerated and coloured. He was also of the opinion that the defendant had not told everything that happened and had not been frank. In these circumstances he was unable to make any findings of fact as regards the second visit and held in effect that the plaintiff had failed to prove that incident as alleged by him.
As regards the first visit he found that the defendant went to the plaintiff's house during the night to demand an account. Whether it was 10:30 pm or 1:30 am he could not say. He believed that the plaintiff was unable to produce any account and asked the defendant to go and return next day. The defendant became annoyed, held on to the plaintiff and abused him. The learned Magistrate made no express finding as to how long the defendant stayed on the premises after he was requested to leave although it seems that he was prepared to accept the allegation that he stayed on for some fifteen minutes. He was also inclined to believe that the plaintiff felt insulted by the defendant's behaviour towards him and asked him to wait while he collected some boys to teach the defendant how to behave towards an elderly man.
On these facts the learned Magistrate held:-
(1) that the defendant was an invitee since he knocked at the door and was asked inside and since his call was one of common interest to both parties,
(2) the fact that he assaulted and abused the plaintiff did not make him a trespasser, and
(3) the fact that he remained an the premises for 15 minutes after being requested to leave did not constitute him a trespasser. He concluded that the plaintiff had failed to prove a trespass by the defendant.
I am extremely doubtful of the correctness of the finding that the defendant was an invitee. The fact that the plaintiff has his office in his house does not in my view constitute an invitation to his clients to see him on business at all times of the day or night. There was evidence that the plaintiff attended to business matters in the day time and in my view an invitation to come on his premises at night cannot be inferred from the facts and circumstances of this case. Be that as it may it does not in my view matter what the exact description of the defendant is, invitee or licensee. He was clearly lawfully on the premises and whether he was an invitee or a licensee he was not authorised to remain on the premises once his licence or invitation had terminated. The law only allows him a reasonable time in which to leave. Now it is perfectly clear in the present case that the defendant was told to go and come back the next day. What did he do. He caught hold of the plaintiff and abused him instead of leaving. In my view in doing so he clearly became a trespasser whether he stayed on for fifteen minutes or any lesser period.
This appeal accordingly succeeds and the decision of the court below together with the order for costs is set aside. Judgment will be entered for the plaintiff. Normally the case would be sent back to the court below to assess the damages but I think that as all the evidence is before this Court and in order to save cost it would be in the general interest to assess them here. After taking everything into consideration including the failure of the plaintiff to submit an account, the initial lawfulness of the defendant's visit, his subsequent wrongful behaviour and so forth, I award the plaintiff £10 damages with costs in the lower Court assessed at 8 guineas. The appellant will also have the costs of this appeal assessed at 14 guineas.