The Commercial Case Law Index is a collection of judgments from African countries on topics relating to commercial legal practice. The collection aims to provide a snapshot of commercial legal practice in a country, rather than present solely traditionally "reportable" cases. The index currently covers 400 judgments from Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa.
Get started on finding judgments that are relevant to you by browsing the topic list on the left of the screen. Click the arrows next to the topic names to reveal a detailed list of sub-topics. Most judgments are accompanied by a short summary written by subject-matter expert postgraduate students from the University of Cape Town.
The issue was whether a failure to comply with court rules directing a witness to file statements in time affects the litigation process.
The plaintiff claimed US $14,000 being money paid to the defendant for an apartment. The plaintiff rescinded the agreement and claimed a refund. The defendants raised an objection to one of witness statements arguing that it was filed out of time limits set by court rules. The defendants’ objection was based on the grounds that admitting the statement was prejudicial to the defendant’s case.
The plaintiff opposed the preliminary objection arguing that statement was filed to expedite the hearing rather than to leave the witness out of court, and the witness’ statement was not part of civil procedure. The plaintiff argued that there was no prejudice caused because the statement was not different substantially from the one submitted by the plaintiff.
The court held that rule 6(4) of the Constitution (Commercial Court) Practice Directions sets time limits that should be adhered to; extensions should be granted in special circumstances. It ruled that in the interest of justice the plaintiff’s witness should be heard and must be granted leave to file the witness statement out of time.
In this case, monies held by the appellant belonging to the Nigeria Customs Service were traced. An order nisi was served on the appellant as the fifth garnishee. This case illustrates how the garnishee proceedings do not avail the garnishee to attack a judgment that the judgment creditor and debtor have accepted.
The court considered whether the appellant should be granted leave to raise fresh issues in additional grounds of appeal. The court explained that garnishee proceedings were not a process employed by the garnishee to fight a proxy war against the judgment creditor on behalf of the judgment debtor. The court held that a decision of a court of law not appealed against is to be accepted by the parties and it remains binding on them other parties, including garnishees.
The court held that the appellant had prayed for leave to raise issues that this court did not have the benefit of the views of the court below. The court considered order 2 rule 12 of the Rules of the Court which provide that the court may exercise its discretion to accept fresh evidence. The court held that there was a mischievous purpose attached to the appellant’s application and no power in law inheres in the garnishee to fight the cause of a judgment debtor.
The court concluded that the cause of action available to the garnishee was quite limited and therefore the application in this case was an abuse of the court process.
The court dismissed the application with costs.
The appellant averred that the trial court, without application by either party, dispensed with the mandatory requirements for pre-trial conference and ordered that the two pending applications be argued immediately.
The issues were whether the provisions of Order 25 of the High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure) Rules 2004 provides for the mandatory holding of pre-trial conference and whether the ruling dispensing the pre-trial conference in the trial court was made in disregard of the civil procedure rules.
The court held that pre-trial conference is used to decipher interlocutory issues and trivialities of facts from the main trial of the case, when and if full trial is necessary for the final determination of the case. Pre-trial conferences may be mandatory however they do not apply where the pleadings have not yet closed or where by the wording of other rules of court it is inapplicable. The court went on to express that in the instant case, the pleadings had not yet closed and so the court below was right in holding that the summary judgment did not envisage any pre-trial conference. This because the summary judgment procedure instead is targeted at speedy disposal of the case where there is no defense or good defense to the claim. The court held that the respondent rushed to apply for pre-trial conference when the issue of whether or not there would be full trial was yet to be determined by the court.
The appeal was dismissed.
The case before the appellate court concerned an appeal against the ruling of the High Court where the appellant’s case was dismissed. In the High Court, the appellant sought to challenge the jurisdiction of the High Court to hear the matter.
The court considered whether the non-inclusion of the word ‘council’ to the names of the respondents was a misnomer and whether the High Court was justified in dismissing the appellant’s preliminary objection.
The court held that the non-inclusion of the word ‘council’ was indeed a misnomer which stood to be amended with the court’s discretion. Once amended, it gave the High Court the right to dismiss the appellant’s preliminary objection.
The court relied on legislation establishing the respondents in order to identify their correct names and the court stated that no other names could have been intended than those put forward by the respondents. The court was of the view that the appellant was being unnecessarily technical which led to an incorrect legal view.
As a result, the appeal was dismissed, and the ruling of the High Court was affirmed. Costs were ordered in favour of the respondents.
The appellant sought to enforce a retainer agreement which was dismissed in the trial court because it lacked jurisdiction and the matter was pending before the Supreme Court. The Court of Appeal considered whether the case was an abuse of court process.
The court held that an appeal is a continuation of a matter and there must be a complete cause of action. Further, the concept of abuse of court process is fluid and imprecise. Improper use of the judicial process by a party in litigation to interferewith due process of administration of justice.
The court found the action of the appellant, in this case, was not properly instituted and premature therefore an abuse of court process. Further, if the court were to determine the claims of the appellant while the eventual decision of the Supreme Court of appeal is pending, such a decision would have overreached the eventual outcome of the SupremeCourt.
Accordingly, the court dismissed the action.
This was an appeal of the decision of a lower court to grant the respondents leave to amend their writ of summons in terms of substituting the 1st to the 12th plaintiffs with their personal representatives and guardians. The writ was taken out in the names of the deceased victims of the fire incident occasioned by the appellant. The appellant, via a notice of preliminary objection challenged the jurisdiction of the court to hear the application having been brought by deceased persons. This preliminary objection was not dealt with by the lower court in its decision.
The court held that the lower court committed a serious error when it did not consider a preliminary objection which challenged the jurisdiction of the court. A court must always establish that it has jurisdiction before it deals with any matter such as the merits of an amendment.
The court further held that the law recognizes two categories of persons who can sue and be sued. They are natural persons with life, mind and brain; and other bodies or institutions having juristic personality.
Accordingly, a dead person ceases to have legal personality and can neither sue nor be sued.
Therefore if the original writ of summons and initiating process are void, the court lacks jurisdiction to entertain or enter judgment in the matter. Based on the above principles, the court upheld the appeal and struct out the claim for want of jurisdiction.
The court considered whether the joining of the fourth to the sixth respondent constituted an abuse of court process which had an interest in the land in dispute.
The court held that the effect of the High Court rules was that substantial justice is achieved if the parties and trial judges achieve just, efficient and speedy dispensation of justice.
The court found that the joinder of the fourth to sixth respondents to contest title to the land did not constitute an abuse of court process. They were entitled in law to file a statement of defence or counterclaim against the appellants.
The court accordingly dismissed the appeal with costs.
The dispute related to dishonored cheques that were issued for payment of supplies. After several cheques were dishonored, the respondents went to the premises of the appellant to recover the remaining products. The trial court award general, special and nominal damages. However, the Court of Appeal reduced the general damages. They also held that nominal damages should not be awarded when there was a failure to prove special damages.
The court dealt with three issues relating to a potential error of law when the Court of Appeal substituted their judgment for that of the trial High Court, failure by the Court of Appeal to exercise their discretion judicially and issuing a judgment against the weight of evidence.
The Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeal could not set aside the trial High Court decision when there was no appeal against the relief granted by the High Court or challenge against the findings made. The Court of Appeal can only set aside aspects of the judgment that have been appeal against. The Court of Appeal can only reverse a trial court if the trial court made orders that were oppressive, excessive or contrary to the law.
The appellant in this case approached the Supreme Court, asking it to set aside its own previous judgement. The respondents filed a preliminary legal objection to the jurisdiction of the court that had to be considered first. The court held that there is no provision in either the Constitution, the Supreme Court Rules or an enactment giving this court the jurisdiction to review or to set aside a judgment by the review bench of the court. The court, therefore, upheld the legal objection and dismissed the appeal.
In order to deter similar frivolous and vexatious actions in the future, the court also exceptionally awarded costs against the appellant.
The main preliminary issue was whether the respondent, an executive agency, could be sued in its own name by the applicant who was seeking an order of temporary injunction.
Before the court could decide on the issue, however, it had to decide on whether the preliminary objection had been made prematurely. In response, it pointed out that the established position in the law is that a preliminary point ought to be raised as earliest as possible. It therefore held that the objection had been appropriate.
Returning to the main question, the court considered the Executive Agencies Act (the act), establishing that an executive agency can be sued under the act without joining the government and Attorney General only when there is a contractual dispute. Since the court could not ascertain that the application had been based on a contract, it found it improper that the applicant had filed for an order against the respondent without joining the government and Attorney General.
The court thus concluded that the application had been made in contravention of the legally required procedure and was thus not legally maintainable.
A court can dismiss a matter for want of prosecution where the person who initiated the court action does not take active steps to pursue the case in court such as not appearing in court. The court dealt with a case where the lawyer did not appear before court on the date for hearing. The case was thereafter dismissed for want of prosecution. This case was an application to set aside the order to dismiss the original court suit for want of prosecution.
To set aside an order that a court suit be set aside for want of prosecution, the applicant must give sufficient grounds that must balanced against the interests of justice. In this case, the lawyer for the applicant did not appear because he was unwell on the court hearing date. The court held that this constituted a sufficient reason to set aside the notice to dismiss the case. In the interests of justice and the compelling reasons, the application to set aside the notice to dismiss was granted.