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Robbery & death in the main vault of MCB- The claim of Rs. 35 million successfully defended by EGR

LAGESSE M.F. & ORS v THE MAURITIUS COMMERCIAL BANK LTD & ORS 2021 SCJ 103


For Defendant No.2:

Mrs J. Rivalland-Robert, Attorney-at-Law

Mr R. Pursem, Senior Counsel




A. BACKGROUND & CLAIM


On 11 February 2005, a robbery occurred in the main vault of the Mauritius Commercial Bank Ltd (hereinafter referred to as the “MCB”). The body of the Late Gérald Lagesse, an employee of the MCB, was found lying dead therein. The medico-legal report revealed that he died of asphyxia by gagging.


The Plaintiffs (widow, daughter and mother of Late Gérald Lagesse) sued, inter alia, the MCB and the insured thereof, the Mauritius Union Assurance CY Ltd (hereinafter referred to as the “MUA”) for “faute” and claimed the total sum of 35 million rupees on the account of damages and prejudice suffered by them following the death of Late Gérald Lagesse.


In essence, the Plaintiffs’ claim rested heavily, inter alia, on the fact that Late Gérald Lagesse did not have the necessary skills and aptitude to work in the main vault by virtue of him working as Customer Service Supervisor since 1974 and that without any adequate training, he was asked to replace one Mrs. Maryse Koon, who was on leave, in the main vault and to perform the latter’s functions which were different from his normal duties.


B. DEFENCE


Consequently, the Plaintiffs claimed that the MCB acted negligently, recklessly and unprofessionally, and that it has failed in its duty as an employer to ensure to its employees in general and in particular to those working in the main vault, a safe working environment and therefore, the MCB and/or the MUA should make good the damages allegedly suffered by them.

The claim of the Plaintiffs was successfully defended on the grounds that:

  1. Late Gérald Lagesse was an experienced bank officer with more than twenty-five years of experience;

  2. He was the bank manager of several branches of the MCB where there were vaults;

  3. In his capacity as branch manager, he was fully conversant with the security aspect of the vaults; and

  4. The security procedures in respect of the main vault and the smaller vaults located in the different branches were the same.

C. DECISION


In light of the above, the Supreme Court held that the preponderance of the evidence did not establish that the robbery and the death of Late Gérald Lagesse were due to the "faute", negligence and recklessness of the Defendants and that the Plaintiffs failed to establish that MCB did not ensure a safe environment for its employees.


The Plaint was accordingly dismissed.


The Judgment can be accessed here: https://supremecourt.govmu.org/view_document/90583/2459567?file=https%3A//supremecourt.govmu.org/system/files/judgment/90583/lagesse-m-f-and-ors-v-mauritius-commercial-bank-ltd-and-ors-2021-scj-10320210427022735_0_0.pdf%23search%3D%22sauzier%22%20%22accident%22%20%22million%22%20%22robert%22%26phrase%3Dfalse&searchType=1&search=%22sauzier%22%20%22accident%22%20%22million%22%20%22robert%22




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