The Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) is rejecting a M450 000 compensation claim from a retired officer who fell out of a military helicopter seven years ago.
Lance-Corporal Lehloaea sustained multiple injuries when he fell out of an LDF chopper on 25 November 2008 and now wants M450 000 in damages. The LDF says it can only offer him M19 000 because of military regulations which dictate how such compensation should be calculated.
The case was before the High Court on Monday, with Justice ‘Maseshophe Hlajoane presiding.
Lance Corporal Lehloaea, who retired in September 2012, has cited the Minister of Defence, LDF Commander and Attorney General as first to third defendant, respectively.
The defendants are being represented by Advocate F Tholoana in the case, while Advocate Letuka Molati is appearing for Lance-Corporal Lehloaea.
According to a witness statement submitted by the LDF Director of Finance, Colonel SE Kaibe, compensation in the army is calculated according to military laws.
Colonel Kaibe notes in the statement: “I was duly advised the Defense Force Regulation of 1998 provides that members be given compensation on the basis of their degree of disability as and when such a member is discharged from the force.
“In the present matter, I have been advised that the plaintiff has since resigned from service, and that at the time of his discharge, he was still suffering from the disability occasioned through injuries he sustained in the discharge of his duties.
“Consequently, the plaintiff is entitled to compensation as provided for in the relevant provisions of the Defense Force Regulations, and not to damages.
“As far as I am aware, the compensation the plaintiff is entitled to is already being processed and amounts to M19 610 and not the M450 000 he claims.
“In my view, there will be no basis whatsoever, to pay the plaintiff the latter amount as it is not provided for in the regulations.”
However, Advocate Molati argues military laws cannot supersede conventional courts of law.
“It is our humble submission that the court’s jurisdiction can’t be ousted by military laws. According to defense laws, the court can’t award anything we suggest. Our case is that this court has discretion and the jurisdiction to award and military laws can’t deprive the courts its discretion,” Advocate Molati told the court.
“The nature of damages sought herein are of bodily changes which arose in the course of duty under circumstances in which there was no negligence on the part of the plaintiff or contributory act on his part.
“There is, at least in this jurisdiction, no authority that the statute has the power to oust the jurisdiction of the court to award appropriate damages in deserving cases.
“The court should award the damages with costs as prayed, as the defendants failed to act reasonably in the face of clear evidentiary facts. All the defendant did was offer paltry or meagre compensation.”
Justice Hlajoane postponed the matter to 7 December 2015 for judgment. The case was first before the court on 13 May 2013.
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