Alliance Life Insurance Limited vs Elihuruma Ngowi, Civil Appeal No 487 of 2021.

1. It is a canon of civil litigation that parties to a suit must be impleaded in their own full names as they appear in the correspondences or records from which a cause of action is founded. Any fundamental change of the name of a party has the effect of changing the identity of a party. With all these safeguards in mind, it has been held to be not uncommon for a plaintiff to be uncertain about the defendant’s correct legal name, and that, despite searches and inquiries, the ignorance may continue with the defendant being improperly named in a statement of claim. If the change is in the form of a misnomer that is done inadvertently, the settled position is that the court enjoys the discretion of choosing to focus on the rights and substance of the parties and their case, rather than punitively truncating the proceedings through striking out of the cases.

*In arriving at such conclusion, the question which will be posed by the court is whether a reasonable defendant in looking at the document as a whole, and in all the circumstances, would conclude that they were, in fact, the defendant. If the answer is yes, courts are allowed to be tolerant and, in fitting situations, to order amendment of the pleadings, especially where the error involves the name of a corporate personality of the person sued. The condition precedent, however, is that the corporate personality of the person sued should not be in doubt*2. Where the mistake is genuine and one which would not have caused reasonable doubt as to the identity of the person intended to be sued then correction of the name is the furthest the court would go, and that, given the trifling nature of the omission and peculiarity of the matter, such correction need not be formal.