Tortious Liability of Medical Practitioners in Nigeria: An Appraisal

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This thesis entitled, “Tortious Liability of Medical Practitioners in Nigeria: An Appraisal,” Examines critically the civil (tortious) Liability of Health care providers in Nigeria. In Nigeria, there is very little awareness that medical professional duties carry legal implications. The conduct of professional people in the medical field, positive or negative, does not only affect their employers but directly impacts third parties. Consequently, liability will arise against the employer and the employee professional in the event of a breach of duty by the latter to act with reasonable care and diligence. The Law is, therefore, well settled that medical men owe a duty in tort, i.e. civil wrongs to their patients whether there is a contract with the patient or not.

Unfortunately, this aspect of the laws is not properly exploited in Nigeria, especially in the Northern part, due to a low level of awareness and cultural norms in which every mishap is attributed to God’s will. Secondly, the cost of litigation is high, and even with Nigeria’s undeveloped Legal Aid System, not everybody is eligible for legal aid. And lastly, doctor-patient relationship evidence has shown that family doctors are less likely to be sued as they are more likely to have relationships of trust with their patients. Nevertheless, the law of medical malpractice has come to stay in Nigeria even though litigation is on small scale. Victims of medical malpractices have brought actions against medical practitioners in Negligence, criminal law, and trespass in Nigerian Courts, especially in southern Nigeria.


1. (1856) 11 EX. 781,784

2. Winfield & Jolowicz on Torts, by W.V.H. Rogers, Sweet and Maxwell London, 1975 P.5.

3. R. Crawford Morris and Alan R. Moritz, Doctor and patient and the Law, Fifth Edition C.V. Mosby Co., Saint Louis, 1971. P. 326.

4. 3rd Edition (Simond’s Edition) Vol. 26, article 22 at P. 17, quoted by sale Mohammed in the Tort of Negligence Under Nigerian Law, Unpublished LL.M. Thesis 1996, Faculty of Law, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria Nigeria, P. 146.

5. Umerah B.C, Medical Practice and The Law in Nigeria, Longman, Nigeria, 1989, P. 124.

6. Saleh Mohammed Op.cit. P .65

7. John Cooke Op. cit.P161

8. (1939) 2.K. B. 14.

9. Mahon v. Osborne (1939) 2.K.B.50. 10.lbid. At P. 23 H. Cassidy v. Ministry of Health (1951) 2 K.B. 303.

12. (1865), 3 H & C, 596

13. Crawford Morris R. and Alan Moritz R, Op. Cit. P. 326.

14. Charlesworth On Negligence 6th Edition, Sweet and Maxwell, Londor 19, P. 578-580. 15. Seem the case of Okeowo v. Chief E.O. Sanyaolu, (1972) IAN.L.R.14

Tortious Liability of Medical Practitioners in Nigeria - An Appraisal