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 matter involved a dispute over an order of suit property sale as a remedy for breach of a loan agreement granted by the trial court against the appellant.
The first question was whether the responded had paid the whole stipulated loan amount to the appellant. Assessing the evidence in the record from the trial court, the court reasoned that the trial court’s assessment had failed to evaluate crucial evidence that showed doubt in the respondent’s claim that the whole stipulated amount had been paid. The court thus concluded that the evidence indicated that the responded had failed to fully honor its performance obligation. As a result, the responded could not pursue the remedy of obliging the appellant to transfer the property for failure to repay the loan.
The second issue concerned the right to mesne profits (i.e. profits received by tenant in wrongful possession and which are recoverable by the landlord) by the appellant and the amounts due. The court did not dwell much on the question of entitlement, instead accepting the trial court’s finding of indisputable occupation and rental collection by responded as a basis together with the fact that responded could not justify the occupation.
The court thus concluded that mesne profits were owed but order that they be set-off to the amount of the loan that the appellant still owed. The decision of the trial court was therefore set-aside and appeal allowed.
The respondent sued the appellant for default of payment in respect of loans granted to the appellant by the respondent in the course of the appellant’s employment.
The appellant claimed that liability in respect of the car loan should not have been determined solely by reference to the formal contract. Instead, the court should have had regard to extrinsic evidence.
The appellant further claimed that the summary judgment granted against him by the court below was erroneously made as there was a plausible dispute between the parties for which leave should have been granted to the appellant to defend the action. The respondent contended that the factual situation representing the appellant's defence did not constitute a good defence on the merit to the claim of the respondent. This court agreed with the respondent.
The appellant submitted that his continued retention in the employment of the respondent was a condition precedent to his repayment of the loans and his employment having been terminated, the enforcement of the personal loans had been frustrated. This court held that this stance was not sustainable because the contracts of employment and personal loans between the parties were two distinct contracts and their duration not co-existent. Thus, the appeal was dismissed.
The respondent bought a piece of property from a third party. After the respondent had taken possession of the property, he became aware of the fact that his predecessor-in-title had mortgaged the property to the appellant. The respondent paid off the outstanding debt and thereafter demanded the release of the title deeds to him. Instead, the appellant demanded some authorisation from his predecessor-in-title before the documents could be released to him. The respondent instituted a claim on this basis. The trial court judgment was in the respondent’s favour.
After the respondent attached the property the appellant filed an application praying for an order staying execution of the judgment, particularly the sale of the property and ordered release thereof; before hearing of the application. The trial court dismissed this application.
The appellant eventually appealed to this court asking for the same. The appellant urged this court to allow the appeal, set aside the ruling of the court below and grant an order directing the High Court to retain the amount deposited as per judgment.
This court held that the order sought to be stayed was made by the trial court and there was no appeal against that order to the Court of Appeal. That being the case, it was held that it would be a wasteful academic exercise to delve into the merit of the issue. Consequently the appeal was dismissed.
The plaintiff won a tender for the supply of various medical supplies and equipment to be distributed by the first defendant. The framework agreement specified that the delivery thereof depended on ‘call off orders’, which were written instructions issued by the first defendant requiring the plaintiff to deliver stipulated numbers of medical supplies on specified dates.
When the first defendant unexpectedly deferred an order for additional supplies, the plaintiff incurred significant unforeseen costs with respect to the storage and security of the delayed goods. The plaintiff therefore instituted a claim against the first defendant for breach of contract.
The issues were common cause. First, whether the order of the goods as agreed was indeed deferred by the defendant. Secondly, whether the defendant delayed its payment for the goods delivered under the contract. These issues were simultaneously dispensed with, the court quickly finding on the evidence before it that the answer two both questions was affirmative.
The third issue, in light of this finding, was whether the defendant’s conduct amounted to a breach. This was also answered in the affirmative as the alterations made by the defendant were a departure from the specified dates and quantities required by the contract’s call off order protocol.
The establishing of loss on the part of the plaintiff to found its claim for damages emerged fourthly. That the record clearly demonstrated the costs incurred by the plaintiff – in the shape of storage and security fees, bank interests and charges from the manufacturer for delayed acceptance of goods – rendered this issue swiftly resolvable by the court.
The fifth issue concerned the determination of relief. The plaintiff was awarded a penalty for delayed payments and further general damages.
Judgment was accordingly entered for the plaintiff.
The plaintiff was a tenant in the defendant’s premises when the tenancy agreement was terminated by the defendant.
The main issue was whether the termination of the lease agreement between the parties was illegal because the plaintiff was not served with notice of termination of the lease agreement.
The court found that the plaintiff breached the terms and conditions of the lease agreement by failing to renew the lease agreement and defaulting on payment of the rent on time.
The court considered a clause of the parties' lease agreement, finding that the parties had agreed in their lease agreement that notices relating to their lease agreement would be served to each of them in various modes. One of those modes was service by hand to the last official address of the party. Since the clause did not state that the notice must be served to the party in person or physically but to be served through his last official address the court found that service to the last official place of business of the plaintiff could not be said to have failed to meet the agreement of the parties.
Therefore, since the plaintiff was a tenant in the premises where the notice was served as he was doing his business there it cannot be said he was not served with notice to terminate the lease agreement because the notice was served to him through his last official place of business.
The court decided in favour of the respondent.
This case concerned an action for breach of contract, and an objection to jurisdiction. The dispute emanated from a loan advanced to the plaintiff by the defendant. The plaintiff deposited his share certificate as security for the loan. The plaintiff contended that the loan was fully repaid and the security discharged; notwithstanding this the defendant informed the Dar es Salaam stock exchange that the share certificates has not been discharged and that the defendant still held an interest in the share certificate. The plaintiff complained to the court that the defendant’s conduct was defamatory and had affected its operation.
The defendant raised an objection to the claim arguing that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter. It based its argument on the grounds that the claim was based on an amount below 100 million shillings. The plaintiff on the other hand argued that the claim was based on US $2.5 million, an mount which falls within the jurisdiction of the court if converted into shillings.
In deciding the case, the court dismissed the defendant objection and ruled that it had jurisdiction to hear the matter.
The claimant/appellant purported to buy a property offered to it by the defendant/first respondent and consolidate the transaction with its purchase of another of the latter’s properties. This was proposed via counter-offer. The appellant proceeded to pay a down-payment for both properties after the agreed time-period, the bulk of which was unilaterally appropriated by the respondent towards payment for only one of them in reverting to the terms of the original agreement. Aggrieved, the appellant approached the High Court seeking layered relief to uphold the consolidated sale. The trial court found that, on the facts, the consolidation agreement was valid but conditional on the specified time-frame. It was therefore aborted as time was of the essence and payment had not been made in the required period. Judgment was entered in favour of the first respondent.
Challenging the trial court’s decision, the appellant argued that a binding agreement had been created, and the respondent had waived the issue of timeous payment when it accepted the appellant’s performance beyond the stipulated time-period. The court dismissed this claim, finding in concurrence with the court below that the failure to meet the time requirement – a term that was accepted by the appellant – thwarted the consolidation. No waiver had occurred.
Specific performance was unavailable to the appellant as the respondent had not breached their existing agreement. Its claim attacking the trial court’s jurisdiction to make an order regarding the transfer and registration of the property – directed at the second respondent – also failed.
The appeal was accordingly dismissed.
The court considered whether the court below properly evaluated the evidence, and were they correct in expunging the evidence. Furthermore, it looked at whether the doctrine of waiver had been correctly applied.
This case looked at whether the revocation of the property as well as the sale of the property was null and void.
The court considered s 83(1)(b), 2(a) and (5) of the Evidence Act and found that a wrongly admitted piece of evidence is not a sacrosanct, it is still subject to scrutiny by the appellate court.
The court found that inadmissible evidence ought not to be admitted, even by mistake, and if it is, the appeal court ought to consider the case on the legally admissible evidence and preclude that which is inadmissible.
It is trite that the evaluation of evidence is essentially the function of the trial judge, where the trial judge has unquestionably evaluated the evidence before him and ascribed probative value to it, it is not the business of the appeal court to disturb such findings of fact, unless the findings are perverse.
In considering the doctrine of waiver, it was found that waiver means that the person in whose favour a benefit or right exists, is aware of those rights or benefits, but chooses to freely not take advantage of those rights or benefits. Thus, the doctrine of waiver could not be applied.
The appellant claimed that a letter in dispute was not a contract but a proposal which outlined the services the respondent intended to render and the billing details. The court considered whether the statement of claim by the respondent disclosed a reasonable cause of action based on a binding contract. The other issue was whether the costs granted in the lower court were justifiable.
The court held that there must be a cause of action cognizable in law. In that light, an action founded on a contract must disclose the cause of action and court must restrict itself to the averments in the statement of claim. The court also held that costs follow the events and are compensatory in the court's discretion.
The court did not determine the existence of the contract because a valid and enforceable contract is a substantive issue that should be determined at trial. The court also found that since the requisite factual elements were present in the statement of claim, a cause of action existed despite weaknesses and unlikelihood of success of the case. The court also found that the trial court awarded the costs reasonably and by the law.
Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal.
The court considered whether the court below was correct in finding that the re-allocation of land was valid in law. Furthermore, it considered whether the below court was correct in finding that ownership could not be established, irrespective of a subsisting agreement and whether the court was correct in admitting inadmissible evidence.
The appellants alleged that they were staff of Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (‘NITEL’) purchased flats from NITEL and occupied them with supporting letters to confirm their purchase. They subsequently discovered that a portion of their land had been re-allocated and used as a car park without their consent.
The court found that a party for a declaration of title of land must show the court clearly the area of land to which the claim relates. The court found that the appellants did not prove their title by failing to prove acts of ownership or long possession.
On the issue of ownership, the court considered the five requirements for a contract to be valid, namely, 1) offer, 2) acceptance, 3) consideration, 4) intention to create a legal relationship and 5) capacity to contract. These must co-exist for a contract to be formed in law. It was found that a valid sale agreement had been established, therefore denoting ownership.
The court found that the admission of evidence which was made during the pendency of the suit was inadmissible and should not have been relied upon by the court below.
The court considered whether the second respondent was a public officer as defined under s 2(a) of the Public Officers Protection Act, 2004 (the act) and whether the revocation of the certificate of occupancy can be said to be for an overriding public interest as defined in s 28 of the Land Use Act.
This case concerned an appeal of the judgment of the court below, declining jurisdiction, whereby the appellant claimed ownership of the land.
It was argued that a minister does not fall within the confines of the definition of ‘public officer’ as contended in the act.
The court found that the act applies not only to public officers but also to public officials who hold their respective offices for, or in trust of the public, thus, the minister is a public officer as contemplated in the act. Therefore, a public officer is a member of the public service.
On the second point, the court held that s 28 of the Land Use Act gives the minister the power to revoke a right of occupancy for overriding public interest. Overriding public interest means the requirement of the land by the government of the state or by local government in the state, for public purpose within the state.
The court found that the revocation of the right of occupancy was valid and for overriding public interest.
The appeal emanated from the advance of a loan by the first respondent to the appellant. The appellant deposited with appellant bank a certificate of occupation and a share certificate as security. The appellant then failed to repay the loan resulting in the sale of the appellant’s shares deposited as security. The appellant instituted legal proceedings against the respondent claiming that it was not indebted to the first respondent for any amount because the arrangement between the parties was a joint venture agreement and that the sale of the second appellants shares was done mala fide and without their consent.
The challenge was dismissed. The appellant appealed against the dismissal arguing that the trial court erred. It pointed out that the deed of mortgage was not properly executed and that the contract between the parties was invalid.
The respondent argued that the appellant was raising new issues not canvassed in the court below. It argued that there was a valid contract between the parties.
The court held that there was a loan agreement between the parties and the appellants did not complain of anomalies in the contract hence it waived any right it may have had. The court ruled that a party cannot raise new issues in an appeal and dismissed the appeal.
The court considered whether the invoice receipt issued by the first respondent to the appellant constituted a contractual agreement.
The court held that the requirements for a valid contract are offer and acceptance, consideration, intention and capacity to contract. Further, in the absence of fraud, duress or plea of non est factum, the signature of a person on a document is evidence of the fact that he is either the author of the contents of the document. Therefore, a court is expected to uphold contracts once the condition precedents are met.
The court found that the requirements for a valid oral contract were met and the parties intended the contract to be binding and enforceable. Further, the appellant had introduced the document which was admissible therefore had to rely on all the contents of the document. On whether the receipt issued for purchasing the vehicle constituted a valid contract, the court found that construing the receipt as a contract was an error in law. The court also found that the appellant intended to buy the car he purchased from the first respondent and only changed his mind when he had the duty to pay the balance.
Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal and awarded costs to the respondent.
This case concerns a dispute between property owners willing to sell that property and tenants of that property willing to buy it. The parties differ in their interpretation of what constitutes a binding contract.
The court considered whether the letters of expression of interest gave rise to contractual obligations between appellants and respondents. The court held that for the an acceptance of an offer to be valid, that acceptance must conform to the terms of the offer. In this case, none of the appellants satisfied the conditions stated in the letter of expression of interest in purchase of the house. Consequently, the court found that there was no valid acceptance and no valid contract.
The appeal court was also asked to consider whether the trial judge properly considered and evaluated the evidence presented before him. The court held that it is the duty of the trial court to review evidence and that it is not the role of the appellate court to substitute its views for those of the trial court unless the latter failed to consider the totality of the case. In this case, the court of appeal was satisfied that the trial court fully considered the case and, therefore, found no reason to temper with its findings.
The appeal was dismissed.
The issue determined by the courts was whether the appellant was an interested party in the suit and whether the firstand second respondent were owners of the property in dispute.
The dispute emanated from the decision of the lower court to award a certificate of occupancy to the respondents after their original certificate was revoked. When their original certificate of occupancy was revoked the land was allocated to the appellant who had built a shopping mall. The appellant challenged the decision to award the occupancy certificate to the respondents. It argued that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter because of non-joinder of all parties whose rights were affected by the court’s decision. The appellant further claimed that their right to fair hearing was infringed.
The respondents argued that the revocation of the original occupancy certificate was null and void because it was in breach of the Land Act. They contended that they could not join the appellants because they did not know of their existence and they were original owners of the land.
In deciding the matter, the court held that the respondents knew of the existence of the appellant and had a legal duty to join the appellant in the suit so that they can be given an opportunity to be heard. It ruled that the court had no jurisdiction to make orders that bind a party who was not given an opportunity to be heard. The appeal was thus upheld.
This appeal case concerns the sale of property. The appellant purchased Block 4BQ which the first respondent claimed is part of Block 1 which she previously purchased. The trial judge nullified the sale of Block 4BQ to the appellant. The appellant filed a counter-claim which was dismissed.
The court of appeal considered whether the lower court was right when it held that the first respondent, not the appellant, was entitled to Block 4BQ. The court held that the terms of the contract must be enforced and found that the evidence clearly implied that Block 4BQ was part of Block 1 which the first respondent purchased and fully paid for. Consequently, the decision of the lower court was confirmed.
The court also determined whether the lower court was right to dismiss the appellant’s counter-claim. The court held that the counter-claimant must establish the counter-claim. In this case, the counter-claimant failed to do so. Consequently, the court confirmed the decision by the trial court to dismiss the counter-claim.
The issue was whether the unilateral withdrawal of a bank guarantee by the appellant amounted to breach of contract.
The appeal emanated from judgement of trial court which found that the withdrawal of a bank guarantee by the appellant
was in breach of contract. The appellant had advanced a bank guarantee to the respondent to guarantee its trading capacity with MTN, a communications company for which it was a distributor. The parties agreed that the contract can only be terminated by giving 60 days’ notice period. The appellant unilaterally terminated the contract.
The respondent successfully challenged the termination in a lower court and was awarded damages amounting to ten million Naira with pre-trial interest. The appellant appealed the decision on the basis that it withdrew the bank guarantee after the respondent breached the agreement. It argued that the respondent’s claim was premised on negligence which had not been proven.
The respondent maintained that the appellant breached the contract by withdrawing the bank guarantee resulting in MTN cancelling its distribution agreement with the respondent. It further argued the delivery of termination was never proved.
The court held there was no evidence to show that the termination notice was delivered to the respondent. It found that the withdrawal of the bank grantee amounted to a breach of contract. The court ruled that it has no power to interfere with damages awarded by the lower court unless special circumstances exist. It found that the ten million award was too excessive warranting it to intervene.
The appeal was dismissed. General damages were reduced from ten million Naira to five million Naira.
Contract Law – payment of money – specific performance Civil procedure – jurisdiction - ratio decidendi
The appellants, employees of the first respondent, appealed a decision against the lower court that dismissed the appellants’ suit claiming wrongful termination.
The court began its consideration of the appeal by assessing the implication of collecting entitlements by the appellants whilst their case was pending, and whether this estopped them from bringing a challenge against their termination. The Supreme Court held that collection of terminal benefits in respect of wrongfully terminated employment would not be a bar to challenging the wrongful termination. If a termination is wrongful then it cannot be remedied by the subsequent act of the injured party. The appellants were therefore held not to be estopped from challenging their termination.
The court held that the main issue for determination was whether employment of the appellants was wrongfully terminated. The sole witness for the appellants stated that there were conditions of service governing their employments, but failed to tender any documentary evidence in support thereof. The onus of proof rests on the appellants to tender the terms and conditions of service; failure to do so had dire consequences for the appellants’ case as it is a vital issue. The court held that at the trial the appellants failed to discharge the onus of proving wrongful termination and how the respondents breached the terms of employment. The appeal was dismissed for lacking merit
The court considered whether the second respondent was an agent of the appellants and entitled to a commission.
The court held that an agency is a fiduciary relationship created when a principal gives authority to an agent to act on his behalf which is accepted by the agent. The court also held that for a real estate agent to claim commission they must show that there was an introduction of a purchaser which was an efficient cause in bringing about the sale of a property. Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners 2007 Rule 7(2)(b) does not forbid a legal practitioner from engaging in the business of a commission agent.
The court found that there was no illegality in the agency agreement between the second respondent and appellants.
The court accordingly dismissed the appeal and awarded costs to the respondent.
Second respondent was informed of a building for sale by the appellants with a 5% commission to whoever secured a buyer. Second respondent found a buyer but received no payment. He successfully claimed payment in the lower court, which the appellants appealed.
The issue was whether the second respondent was an agent of the appellants and entitled to the commission claimed.
Agency is created when the principal authorises the agent to act on their behalf, and the agent accepts to act on their authority. The appeal court agreed that the second respondent began acting as agent immediately after being given the sale price and rate of commission. The first appellant authorised several agents, including second respondent, to look for a buyer. The ultimate buyer was introduced to the first appellant by second respondent.
At issue was whether the second respondent could act as a commission agent or receive commission. He was not a qualified estate surveyor and valuer, or a member of the Nigerian Institute of Estate Surveyors, Agents and Valuers. Furthermore, a lawyer may not practice as a legal practitioner while engaging in the business of a commission agent. Though the second respondent contravened the latter rule, the court held that this contravention did not vitiate the agency agreement. A party who has benefitted from a contract cannot evade their obligations by relying on an allegation of illegality; illegality must be on the face of it. There was no illegality in the agency agreement.
The appeal was dismissed.
Appeal against the judgment in favour of the respondent for arrear rent with costs. The appeal was brought on two grounds: the lower court erred by ordering the rent payable in British Pounds (GBP); and the trial court erred in holding that the burden of proving non-payment of the rent in GBP rested on the appellant.
The first issue concerned the interpretation and applicability of the Decimal Currency Act (the act) on the mode of payment of the rent, which was fixed by the Deed of lease. Applying literal interpretation, the court concluded that section 1(2) of the Act related only to contracts entered into in Nigerian Pounds. It was not the legislature’s intention to constrict contractors from deciding the terms and manner of payment. Parties to a contract are bound by its terms and conditions, and a court will respect the contract.
Issue two as to who bore the onus of proving the currency of payment post-Decimal Currency Act, was decided in favour of the respondent. The burden of proof generally lies with the plaintiff to establish their case, however this burden is not static. The respondent adduced evidence of non-payment of rent, the burden shifted to the appellant to adduce evidence rebutting this, and in proof of the assertion that regular payments of rent were made. The appellant failed to produce evidence that payment was made, and that it was done in Naira and not GBP.
The appeal was dismissed.
A claim by the appellant was repudiated by the respondent on the grounds that the deceased had misrepresented and failed to disclose to the respondent certain details of her pre-existing medical condition which materially affected the assessment of the risk under the policy by the respondent. The issue before the court was whether the deceased made a misrepresentation during the telephone conversation as well as materiality of any alleged misrepresentation or non-disclosure, does not arise in the absence of proof of the deceased’s pre-existing medical condition.
The court held that the respondent bore the onus to prove that the deceased had misrepresented herself to the respondent. The respondent also had to prove that the deceased had failed to disclose that she had received medical advice or treatment previously. There was however there was no clear understanding between the parties as to the evidential status of the contents of the hospital records. The court ruled that the respondent failed to discharge that onus to prove that the deceased did misrepresent herself as there was inadequacy and lack of clarity in the hospital records.
The court expressed that that the court a quo erred in concluding that it was not in dispute that the illnesses were noted correctly in the hospital records. The court also noted that the court a quo paid scant regard to the admissibility of the evidence as a result the parties had to file supplementary heads of argument.
Accordingly the court upheld the appeal.
Contract – limitation of liability clause – suing in delict to escape application of limitation of liability clause
Delict – wrongfulness – duty of care
The respondent sold a car to a man who paid half price and took the vehicle
leaving the original registration book with the respondent. The new buyer on
the same day sold the car to the appellant. The respondent bought a suit
against the appellant and his predecessor in title for orders of specific
performance of the sale agreement, damages, interest and costs of the suit.
The trial court entered judgment for the respondent and the appellant’s
appeal to the court of appeal was dismissed hence this appeal.
The first issue was whether the appellate court erred in law and in fact to conclude that the respondent could not be sued. The court observed a difference in the extent of immunity accorded in the domestic act and that granted in the Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank Charter of the Preferential Trade Area (PTA) for Eastern and Southern African States (the charter) and Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank Act (the act), with the charter providing for absolute immunity whilst the act offered functional immunity. It reasoned that the intention of the act is to govern the relationship between Uganda and the respondent. Applying the ejusdem generis rule (that a general term describing a list of specific terms denotes other things that are like the specific elements) to interpret the objectives of the act, the court concluded that immunity was not intended to extend to third party relationships as these are not covered by the functionality principle underpinning the act. The court held the appellate court erred in its finding and instead concluded against immunity.
The second question was whether it was a procedural requirement to obtain a waiver before instituting suit against the respondent. Reiterating the functionality basis of the respondent’s immunity and the fact that it did not extent to suits from third parties for contractual breach, the court reasoned that the waiver requirement was inapplicable and unnecessary. It thus concluded that there was no need to obtain a waiver before commencing suit and allowed the appeal.
The court considered whether; the land occupied by the respondent was registered land, the grant of the lease was fraudulent, and estoppel is applicable.
The court held that s 31(1) of the Land Act gives security of tenure to a tenant on registered land. Moreso, the implications of the abolitions of statutory leases in terms of art 237 of the Constitution remains a grey area. The court also held that security of tenure protects a bona fide occupant 's interest. Also, under s 176 of the Registration of Titles Act, a registered proprietor is protected against ejectment except in certain cases including fraud. Further, to procure registration of title to defeat an unregistered interest amounts to fraud. The court also held that registration tainted with fraud does not give rise to the doctrine of estoppel.
The court found that respondent must continue occupation because they were in undisturbed possession and occupation before the 1995 Constitution. The abolition of statutory leases did not automatically extinguish such right. Also found that fraud was attributable to appellants because the grant and registration of suit land in the name of the second appellant was intended to defeat the unregistered interest of the respondent.
Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal with costs. Further ordered the first appellant to give due consideration to the respondent's application for a lease over the suit land including giving it a priority in the granting of the lease.
The matter involved a dispute as to whether there was a contract and in effect breach of contract.
The main issue before the court was whether there was a contract for sale of goods and in consequence whether there was breach. Citing trite law that there is no contract if there is no agreement on the essential terms of contract, the court established that the alleged contract did not mention the amounts allegedly guaranteed whilst the demand for payment itself was not linked to the telephone transactions. The court considered the definition of a proforma invoice and concluded the alleged contract was part of negotiations and was therefore an offer to treat. As there was no indication of agreement on the essential terms, there was therefore no contract and consequently no breach of contract.
In obiter, the court also dealt with the question whether special damages were rightfully awarded by the court a quo. Acknowledging special damages as damage in fact caused by wrong and the claim requirements for specificity of pleading and proof, the court concluded that the award of special damages was inconsistent as liability could not be imported on a non-existent contract.
The court thus concluded in favor of the appellant and allowed the appeal.
The plaintiff sued the defendant state organ for the balance of payment for construction services rendered in respect of a government-owned school premises. It contended that the defendant had failed to pay the agreed-upon amount timeously; his sum claim was therefore the unpaid balance plus compound interest. The defendant contended that the plaintiff had been paid in full – the principal amount plus simple interest for the period of delay. As the agreement was unwritten, the court had to establish its terms. The determination of the type of interest was integral as the parties had not considered this at the time of contracting.
That the defendant was in breach due to its prolonged delay in effecting payment was quickly established by the court. Considering the nature and purport of contractual damages, it established that compound interest was apposite. Examining the plaintiff’s exhibits of standard industry lending rates sourced from the Bank of Uganda, the court determined the correct rate of interest at 22% p.a. and ruled in favour of the plaintiff. It held further that the award of compound interest sufficiently compensated the plaintiff for its restitutionary and expectation interests, thereby obviating the need for general damages.