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Nigerian drags Oxford University to court over wrong dictionary definition

May 09, 2018 at 09:29 am | News

Mildred Europa Taylor

Mildred Europa Taylor | Associate Editor

May 09, 2018 at 09:29 am | News

Oxford Dictionary

A Nigerian lawyer, Ogedi Ogu, has filed a $27,800 lawsuit against Oxford University Press, publishers of Oxford Dictionary, over an alleged wrongful definition of the words “mortgagee’’ and “mortgagor” in the dictionary.

The University of Oxford is the first defendant in the suit filed before the Lagos State High Court in Igbosere while Oxford University Press joined as the second defendant.

Ogu, in his statement, said that he has been left embarrassed and his image and reputation as a lawyer dented after he relied on the definitions of the words in the Oxford Dictionary which he later found out to be incorrect.

He said in 2001 and 2005, he bought the Oxford Mini Reference Dictionary, and the Oxford English Mini Dictionary respectively and found that the word “mortgagee’’ was defined as the borrower in a mortgage transaction, while “mortgagor’’ was defined as the lender.

According to him, he relied on the definitions while giving a legal advice to a professional colleague, who subsequently pointed out to him that the definitions were wrong and mixed up.

His colleague further alerted him to the correct position in many other dictionaries apart from Oxford, which defines the word “mortgagee” to be the lender and “mortgagor” to be the borrower.

Ogu claimed that he has since suffered a loss of professional esteem, as his colleagues had stopped asking him for advice on any legal issue.

On November 4, 2016, he asked his lawyer, Emmanuel Ofoegbu, to write a pre-litigation letter to University of Oxford and Oxford University Press, seeking redress.

The defendants replied in a letter dated November 30, 2016, by their legal director, and admitted the wrong definitions but refused to accept any liability.

“Our dictionaries are made available as a reference tool only; they are never held out by OUP as being an alternative to seeking independent legal or financial advice, and we cannot take responsibility for an individual’s decision to use them as such,” the letter from the defendants partly read.

The Nigerian lawyer said it was based on this that he filed the suit, seeking damages in the sum of $27,800, the equivalent of 10m Naira.

He also wants the court to order Oxford University Press to always ensure that all dictionaries published by them have a caveat which states that the dictionaries are only available as reference tools and that anyone who relies on them as an alternative to seeking legal or financial advice, does so at his risk.

The date for the hearing of the suit is yet to be fixed by the court.

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