Lagos lawyer sues Oxford Dictionary over definition

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Lawyer Ogedi Ogu has filed a N10m lawsuit against Oxford University Press, publisher of Oxford Dictionary, over an alleged wrongful definition of “mortgagee’’ and “mortgagor” .

The first defendant in the suit is the University of Oxford while Oxford University Press was joined as the second defendant.

In his statement of claim filed before the Lagos State High Court in Igbosere, Ogu claimed that he was embarrassed, and has suffered a loss of reputation as a lawyer when he relied on the definitions of the words in Oxford Dictionary.

According to him, the Oxford Mini Reference Dictionary and the Oxford English Mini Dictionary, which he purchased in 2005 and 2006 respectively, define “mortgagee’’ as the borrower in a mortgage transaction, while “mortgagor’’ was defined as the lender.

However, the lawyer said the lexicon mixes up the meanings of the two words.

In his claim, Ogu said he relied on the definitions to offer legal advice to a professional colleague who later pointed out to him that the definitions were wrong.

The colleague drew his attention to the correct position in many other dictionaries defining the word “mortgagee” to be the lender and “mortgagor” to be the borrower.

Ogu claimed that he has since suffered a loss of professional respect among his colleagues, as his legal advice was no longer being sought.

He said on account of this, he instructed his lawyer, Emmanuel Ofoegbu, to write a pre-litigation letter to University of Oxford and Oxford University Press on November 4, 2016, seeking redress.

He said the defendants replied with a letter dated November 30, 2016, by their legal director, admitting the wrong definitions complained of but refused to accept any liability.

The letter, he said, read partly, “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.”

Ogu said it was consequent upon this that he filed the suit, seeking damages in the sum of N10m.

He also wants the court to order Oxford University Press to always ensure that all dictionaries published by them have a caveat warning readers that they 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 court has yet to fix a date for the hearing.