The High Court has barred South Africa’s retail giant, Shoprite, from exiting the Kenyan market until a dispute with a shopper who was injured inside one of its branches is settled.
Shoprite, which is keen to close shop in Kenya over poor business that led to the loss of more than Sh3 billion last year, will now have to stay in business longer unless it strikes a deal with the individual.
Justice Anthony Mrima ruled the retail chain with 2,300 stores across Africa should not leave the country or dispose its assets until the case filed by Mr Patrick Alouis Macharia Maina is decided.
The order will remain in force pending settlement of the claim by Mr Maina who wants compensation for injuries sustained in the outlet’s branch at Garden City Mall, Nairobi.
Mr Maina was injured after a stack of plastic lids fell on him while shopping at 5.30pm on September 27, 2019. In his court papers, he says he suffered head injuries and excruciating pain. He also complained of swollen lips, lacerations on the lips and bleeding inside the mouth.
The injuries that were not outwardly visible included 'a tender nose bridge, a splitting headache, dizziness and temporary mental confusion'. He also says the violent falling of the lids fractured his spectacles.
Mr Maina says the incident occurred when he attempted to lift the stack of containers in order to inspect them more closely. The stack of lids that had been loosely placed on top of the containers suddenly slid off and struck him on his face.
He claims that he requested first aid or to be transferred to hospital, but the shop manager, Isaac Mwika, refused saying that he did not have the authority to do so.
Mr Maina took pictures of the scene and himself to document the incident. This was out of fear of having to bear the burden of unplanned medical bills should Shoprite deny the incident or refuse to help.
He was, however, later taken to Avenue hospital by Mr Mwika after he obtained the approval.
The judge restrained the South African retailer, trading locally as Shoprite Checkers Kenya Ltd, from selling, transferring or concluding any sale or transfer of its business as a going concern pending determination of the case.
Justice Mrima said if the company closed shop enforcement of any order would be difficult.
"In the event the respondent leaves the jurisdiction of this court, and the petition is allowed even partly, then any enforcement will be a tall order," said the judge.
He noted that the company admitted it is exiting Kenya and that Mr Maina was injured in one of its retail outlets in Nairobi.
"The respondent even took care of Mr Maina's resultant medical expenses. The respondent has offered to deposit Sh500,000 in court on account of the injuries sustained by Mr Maina," said the judge.
Shoprite had vehemently opposed granting an order in favour of Mr Maina, saying it is a multinational company and although it is leaving Kenyan market, it is not under liquidation. It indicated that it remains able and continues to extinguish its financial obligations.
It had also filed a preliminary objection challenging the court's authority to determine the case, which is scheduled to be heard by way of highlighting of submissions on February 11, 2021.
Shoprite entered the Kenyan market in 2018 and was set to permanently close its operations end of this month after suffering a loss of Sh3.2 billion in the year to June 2020.
The South Africa-based retailer closed its four outlets in Westgate Mall, Garden City, Karen branch and the City Mall branch in Nyali, Mombasa and shed hundreds of jobs after its local operations underperformed.
Shoprite attributed the shutdowns to reduced flow of shoppers.