|Civil Appeal 58 of 2018
|Paul Nderitu Mwangi & Eastern Bypass Sacco Limited v Jacinter Mbete Mutisya & Aaron Wambua Musonzo (Suing as the legal Representatives of the Estate of William Mbithi Musonzo (Deceased)
|21 Dec 2018
|High Court at Machakos
|George Vincent Odunga
|Paul Nderitu Mwangi & another v Jacinter Mbete Mutisya & another (Suing as the legal Representatives of the Estate of William Mbithi Musonzo (Deceased)  eKLR
|The information contained in the above segment is not part of the judicial opinion delivered by the Court. The metadata has been prepared by Kenya Law as a guide in understanding the subject of the judicial opinion. Kenya Law makes no warranties as to the comprehensiveness or accuracy of the information
REPUBLIC OF KENYA
IN THE HIGH COURT OF KENYA AT MACHAKOS
(Coram: Odunga, J)
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 58 OF 2018
PAUL NDERITU MWANGI.....................................1ST APPELLANT/APPELLANT
EASTERN BYPASS SACCO LIMITED................2ND APPELLANT/APPLICANT
JACINTER MBETE MUTISYA
& AARON WAMBUA MUSONZO
(Suing as the legal Representatives
of the Estate of William Mbithi
1. By a Motion on Notice dated 22nd June, 2018, the applicants herein seek that there be a stay of execution of the judgement and decree in Kangundo PMCC No. 68 of 2016 pending the hearing and determination of this appeal.
2. The application was supported by an affidavit sworn by Pauline Waruhiu who described herself as the Claims Manager at Directline Assurance Company Limited, the insurers of Motor Vehicle Registration No. KCB 531S.
3. According to the deponent, based on legal advice, on 22nd may, 2018, judgement was delivered against the appellant herein in which they were ordered to pay to the 1st Respondent General Damages in the total sum of Kshs 4,533,692.00 plus costs and interests of the suit.
4. Being aggrieved by the said judgement on quantum, the deponent issued instructions to their advocates to appeal which appeal was filed on 30th May, 2018. However as the amount involved is substantial, it was the apprehension of the deponent that if the same is paid to the 1st Respondent and the appeal succeeds, the applicant may not be able to recover the same from the 1st Respondent whose means are unknown as the 1st respondent did not disclose or furnish the court with any documentary evidence to prove her financial standing.
5. The deponent however disclosed that the applicants were ready, able and willing to furnish such reasonable security as this Court may deem fit including depositing the whole decretal amount in court or in joint interest earning account.
6. It was the applicants’ case that the application was made within the stipulated time and that the 1st Respondent would not suffer any prejudice or damage that cannot be compensated by way of costs. On the other hand the applicants stand to suffer prejudice and irreparable financial loss as there is a likelihood that they will not recover the decretal amount if paid over to the 1st Respondent.
7. The application was opposed by the Respondents who averred that the application was premature as no decree had been extracted and there was no threat of execution. According to the Respondents, though the appeal was only challenging quantum, the appellants had not offered to make payment of whatever amount of damages they may deem appropriate.
8. The Respondents therefore proposed that the applicants be ordered to pay forthwith one half of the judgement sum and deposit the balance in a joint interest earning account in the names of counsel within 30 days.
9. I have considered the application, the supporting affidavit, the grounds of opposition and the submissions filed as well as the authorities relied upon.
10. The principles guiding the grant of a stay of execution pending appeal are well settled. These principles are provided under Order 42 rule 6(2) of the Civil Procedure Rules which provides as follows:
No order for stay of execution shall be made under subrule (1) unless—
(a) the court is satisfied that substantial loss may result to the applicant unless the order is made and that the application has been made without unreasonable delay; and
(b) such security as the court orders for the due performance of such decree or order as may ultimately be binding on him has been given by the applicant.
11. In Vishram Ravji Halai vs. Thornton & Turpin Civil Application No. Nai. 15 of 1990  KLR 365, the Court of Appeal held that whereas the Court of Appeal’s power to grant a stay pending appeal is unfettered, the High Court’s jurisdiction to do so under Order 41 rule 6 of the Civil Procedure Rules is fettered by three conditions namely, establishment of a sufficient cause, satisfaction of substantial loss and the furnishing of security. Further the application must be made without unreasonable delay. To the foregoing I would add that the stay may only be granted for sufficient cause and that the Court in deciding whether or not to grant the stay and that in light of the overriding objective stipulated in sections 1A and 1B of the Civil Procedure Act, the Court is nolonger limited to the foregoing provisions. The courts are now enjoined to give effect to the overriding objective in the exercise of its powers under the Civil Procedure Act or in the interpretation of any of its provisions. According to section 1A(2) of the Civil Procedure Act “the Court shall, in the exercise of its powers under this Act or the interpretation of any of its provisions, seek to give effect to the overriding objective” while under section 1B some of the aims of the said objective are; the just determination of the proceedings; the efficient disposal of the business of the Court; the efficient use of the available judicial and administrative resources; and the timely disposal of the proceedings, and all other proceedings in the Court, at a cost affordable by the respective parties.
12. It therefore follows that all the pre-Overriding Objective decisions must now be looked at in the light of the said provisions. This does not necessarily imply that all precedents are ignored but that the same must be interpreted in a manner that gives effect to the said objective. What is expected of the Court is to ensure that the aims and intendment of the overriding objective as stipulated in section 1A as read with section 1B of the Civil Procedure Act are attained. It is therefore important that the Court takes into consideration the likely effect of granting the stay on the proceedings in question. In other words the Court ought to weigh the likely consequences of granting the stay or not doing so and lean towards a determination which is unlikely to lead to an undesirable or absurd outcome. What the Court ought to do when confronted with such circumstances is to consider the twin overriding principles of proportionality and equality of arms which are aimed at placing the parties before the Court on equal footing and see where the scales of justice lie considering the fact that it is the business of the court, so far as possible, to secure that any transitional motions before the Court do not render nugatory the ultimate end of justice. The Court, in exercising its discretion, should therefore always opt for the lower rather than the higher risk of injustice. See Suleiman vs. Amboseli Resort Limited  2 KLR 589. This was the position of Warsame, J (as he then was) in Samvir Trustee Limited vs. Guardian Bank Limited Nairobi (Milimani) HCCC 795 of 1997 where he expressed himself as hereunder:
“Every party aggrieved with a decision of the High Court has a natural and undoubted right to seek the intervention of the Court of Appeal and the Court should not put unnecessary hindrance to the enjoyment and exercise of that right by the defendant. A stay would be overwhelming hindrance to the exercise of the discretionary powers of the court…The Court in considering whether to grant or refuse an application for stay is empowered to see whether there exist any special circumstances which can sway the discretion of the court in a particular manner. But the yardstick is for the court to balance or weigh the scales of justice by ensuring that an appeal is not rendered nugatory while at the same time ensuring that a successful party is not impeded from the enjoyment of the fruits of his judgement. It is a fundamental factor to bear in mind that, a successful party is prima facie entitled to the fruits of his judgement; hence the consequence of a judgement is that it has defined the rights of a party with definitive conclusion. The respondent is asserting that matured right against the applicant/defendant…For the applicant to obtain a stay of execution, it must satisfy the court that substantial loss would result if no stay is granted. It is not enough to merely put forward mere assertions of substantial loss, there must be empirical or documentary evidence to support such contention. It means the court will not consider assertions of substantial loss on the face value but the court in exercising its discretion would be guided by adequate and proper evidence of substantial loss…Whereas there is no doubt that the defendant is a bank, allegedly with substantial assets, the court is entitled to weigh the present and future circumstances which can destroy the substratum of the litigation…At the stage of the application for stay of execution pending appeal the court must ensure that parties fight it out on a level playing ground and on equal footing in an attempt to safeguard the rights and interests of both sides. The overriding objective of the court is to ensure the execution of one party’s right should not defeat or derogate the right of the other. The Court is therefore empowered to carry out a balancing exercise to ensure justice and fairness thrive within the corridors of the court. Justice requires the court to give an order of stay with certain conditions.”
13. On the first principle, Platt, Ag.JA (as he then was) in Kenya Shell Limited vs. Kibiru  KLR 410, at page 416 expressed himself as follows:
“It is usually a good rule to see if Order XLI Rule 4 of the Civil Procedure Rules can be substantiated. If there is no evidence of substantial loss to the applicant, it would be a rare case when an appeal would be rendered nugatory by some other event. Substantial loss in its various forms, is the corner stone of both jurisdictions for granting a stay. That is what has to be prevented. Therefore without this evidence it is difficult to see why the respondents should be kept out of their money”.
14. On the part of Gachuhi, Ag.JA (as he then was) at 417 held:
“It is not sufficient by merely stating that the sum of Shs 20,380.00 is a lot of money and the applicant would suffer loss if the money is paid. What sort of loss would this be? In an application of this nature, the applicant should show the damages it would suffer if the order for stay is not granted. By granting a stay would mean that status quo should remain as it were before judgement. What assurance can there be of appeal succeeding? On the other hand, granting the stay would be denying a successful litigant of the fruits of his judgement.”
15. Dealing with the contention that there was no evidence that the 1st Respondent would be able to refund the decretal sum if paid over to the Respondent, Hancox, JA (as he then was) in the above cited case when he expressed himself as follows:
“I therefore think in the circumstances that these comments were unfortunate. Nevertheless, having considered the matter to the full, and with anxious care, there is in my judgement no justification whatsoever for holding that there is a likelihood that the respondents will not repay the decretal sum if the appeal is successful and that the appeal will thereby be rendered nugatory. The first respondent is a man of substance, with a good position and prospects. It is true his house was, in his words, reduced to ashes, but I do not take that against him. Both seem to me to be respectable people and there is no evidence that either will cease to be so, in particular that the first respondent will not remain in his job until pensionable age.”
16. Therefore the mere fact that the decree holder is not a man of means does not necessarily justify him from benefiting from the fruits of his judgement. On the other hand, the general rule is that the Court ought not to deny a successful litigant of the fruits of his judgement save in exceptional circumstances where to decline to do so may well amount to stifling the right of the unsuccessful party to challenge the decision in the higher Court. In Machira T/A Machira & Co Advocates vs. East African Standard (No 2)  KLR 63 it was held that:
“to be obsessed with the protection of an appellant or intending appellant in total disregard or flitting mention of the so far successful opposite party is to flirt with one party as crocodile tears are shed for the other, contrary to sound principle for the exercise of a judicial discretion. The ordinary principle is that a successful party is entitled to the fruits of his judgement or of any decision of the court giving him success at any stage. That is trite knowledge and is one of the fundamental procedural values which is acknowledged and normally must be put into effect by the way applications for stay of further proceedings or execution, pending appeal are handled. In the application of that ordinary principle, the court must have its sight firmly fixed on upholding the overriding objective of the rules of procedure for handling civil cases in courts, which is to do justice in accordance with the law and to prevent abuse of the process of the court”.
17. Where the allegation is that the respondent will not be able to refund the decretal sum the burden is upon the applicant to prove that the Respondent will not be able to refund to the applicant any sums paid in satisfaction of the decree. See Caneland Ltd. & 2 Others vs. Delphis Bank Ltd. Civil Application No. Nai. 344 of 1999.
18. The law, however appreciates that it may not be possible for the applicant to know the respondent’s financial means. The law is therefore that all an applicant can reasonably be expected to do, is to swear, upon reasonable grounds, that the Respondent will not be in a position to refund the decretal sum if it is paid over to him and the pending appeal was to succeed but is not expected to go into the bank accounts, if any, operated by the Respondent to see if there is any money there. The property a man has is a matter so peculiarly within his knowledge that an applicant may not reasonably be expected to know them. In those circumstances, the legal burden still remains on the applicant, but the evidential burden would then, in those circumstances, where the applicant has reasonable grounds which grounds must be disclosed in the application that the Respondent will not be in a position to refund the decretal sum if the appeal succeeds, have shifted to the Respondent to show that he would be in a position to refund the decretal sum. See Kenya Posts & Telecommunications Corporation vs. Paul Gachanga Ndarua Civil Application No. Nai. 367 of 2001; ABN Amro Bank, N.K. vs. Le Monde Foods Limited Civil Application No. 15 of 2002.
19. What amounts to reasonable grounds for believing that the respondent will not be able to refund the decretal sum is a matter of fact which depends on the facts of a particular case. In my view even if it were shown that the respondent is a man of lesser means, that would not necessarily justify a stay of execution as poverty is not a ground for denial of a person’s right to enjoy the fruits of his success. Suffice to say as was held in Stephen Wanjohi vs. Central Glass Industries Ltd. Nairobi HCCC No. 6726 of 1991, financial ability of a decree holder solely is not a reason for allowing stay; it is enough that the decree holder is not a dishonourable miscreant without any form of income.
20. In this case, the applicants have not disclosed their grounds for believing that the Respondents would not be able to refund the decretal sum herein as the supporting affidavit is deposed to by an agent of the applicants’ insurers as opposed to the applicants themselves. She has not disclosed his source of information that the Respondents will be unable to refund the decretal sum if paid over to him. In my view it is not sufficient to simply make a bare averment that the Respondent will not be able to refund. As far as the Court is concerned the Respondent is the successful party and has a right to enjoy the fruits of his judgement unless the circumstances dictate otherwise. It is upon the party seeking to deprive the successful party from enjoying his fruits of judgement that ought to prove that those circumstances do exist. That threshold cannot be said to have been attained by mere bare allegations devoid of sources of information or grounds of belief.
21. In this case however, the decree sum is over Kshs 4.5 million. While the general rule is that poverty of the judgement creditor is not necessarily a ground for granting stay of execution, where the award is on the face of it high, that is a factor which this Court may take into account.
22. Therefore with respect to the issue whether or not the applicant stands to suffer substantial loss in Job Kilach vs. Nation Media Group & 2 Others Civil Application No. Nai. 168 of 2005 the Court of Appeal citing Oraro & Rachier Advocates vs. Co-operative Bank of Kenya Limited Civil Application No. Nai. 358 of 1999 held that where there is a decree against the applicant but the amount is colossal, it cannot be lost sight of the fact that the decretal sum is a very large sum, which by Kenyan standards very few individuals will be in a position to pay without being overly destabilized. In the said case the amount in question was Kshs. 4,000,000.00. Therefore if the applicant were to prove that if compelled to settle the decretal sum it may well fold up hence be disabled in pursuing his otherwise merited appeal, the Court may, while also taking into account the prospects of the Respondent being able to be paid if the appeal were to fail, grant the stay sought.
23. While in this case, it is not contended that the applicant’s insurers are likely to fold up, the amount herein was awarded to an estate of the deceased. However, the applicants’ appeal intends to challenge only the quantum of damages as opposed to liability, a realisation that at the end of the day some amount is likely to be awarded to the Respondents.
24. In the premises, there will be a stay of execution pending this appeal on condition that the Applicants remit to the Respondent half of the decretal sum and deposits the other half in a joint interest earning account in Kenya Commercial Bank, Machakos, in the names of the advocates for the parties herein within 30 days from the date hereof. The said period will however exclude the vacation period.
25. As regards costs, although this Court directed the parties to furnish it with soft copies of the pleadings and submissions in word format, none of the parties complied therewith by the time of the drafting of this ruling. Section 1A(3) of the Civil Procedure Act provides as hereunder:
A party to civil proceedings or an advocate for such a party is under a duty to assist the Court to further the overriding objective of the Act and, to that effect, to participate in the processes of the Court and to comply with the directions and orders of the Court.
26. One of the overriding objectives of the Civil Procedure Act is the facilitation of expeditious resolution of the civil disputes governed by the Act. The direction that Advocates and parties do furnish the Court with soft copies of their pleadings and submissions is geared towards that same objective and where they fail to comply therewith, it amounts to a failure to comply with a statutory mandate which may call for a penalty in costs or deprivation of costs even where the same would have been granted. Accordingly, there will be no order as to the costs of this application.
27. It is so ordered.
Read, signed and delivered in open Court at Machakos this 21st day of December, 2018.
G V ODUNGA
Delivered in the absence of the parties.