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 appeal stemmed from the denial of the appellant's right to defend on merits due to the lower court’s grant of an Order 14 summary judgement in favor of the respondent, without properly engaging with the merits of the matter.
Substantively, the court held that in a summary judgement application the plaintiff must bring a prima facie case for the claim, which includes showing the basis of the claim, before the burden shifts to the defendant to defend. However, a complete defence is not required but rather the defendant only needs to show that he has a reasonable defence to the claim and his defence is not a sham or intended to delay payment.
Since the respondent’s claim had been based on an agreement and an alleged assignment, the court reasoned that on assessment of the evidence the argument of assignment lacked the element of intent and thus could not stand. Further, the argument that the respondent was a beneficiary of the agreement in question was unfounded. The trial court therefore erred in its decision to grant summary judgment as the very basis of the claim was reasonably challenged on the facts.
The court thus concluded that the appellant had been unjustifiably been shut out of trial. It thus allowed the appeal setting aside the summary judgement.
In this appeal, court determined whether the representations made by the respondents in their letter of 3rd October 2013 constituted promissory estoppels with regard to the auction that took place on 30th September 2013. The court noted that the principle of promissory estoppel relates to representations of future conduct and not past conduct and held that the principle was not applicable to the facts of the case. The court also determined whether the application was made out of time. The court applied the rule in Order 45 rule 10(1) of the High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2004: that such an application should be made 21 days from the date of the sale. The appellant made the application on 8th November 2013 while the auction took place on the 30th September 2013. The court held that the application was incompetent since it was made out of time. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed and the judgment of the court of appeal was affirmed.
The court was confronted with a question of liability for undelivered goods by the driver of a haulage company contracted by the plaintiff. The meat of the enquiry focused on the issue of the effect of a failure to sign the delivery note on bailment. Having assessed the understanding and intentions of the parties the court reasoned delivery occurred at the moment of loading by the supplier, upon which liability passed to the carrier. The issue of the signing of the note or lack of by the driver thus bore no significance on the question of liability. Only sufficient reasons for failure to adduce the signature and evidence of collusive fraud by defendant would commute the carrier’s responsibility. Consequently, a claim of contributory negligence could not stand once loading had been made by the supplier as they did not have an express duty of care to ensure signing of the notes. Moreover, the mere loading was in itself delivery thus the plaintiff failed to demonstrate negligence.
Finally, the court dealt with the question of whether a contract actually existed between the parties as this had an effect on surcharges deducted by the defendant. The court found that given the nature of the contracts involved, the defendant had no contractual relationship with the plaintiff and therefore could not sue on the surcharge agreement as they were not party to the contract made for their benefit.
The court thus dismissed the appeal.
The plaintiff supplier sued the defendant – its Local Technical Representative (LTR) in accordance with the National Drug Authority Act for the distribution of pharmaceutical products – for breach of contract. The defendant failed to pay the plaintiff for the assorted products it supplied. The plaintiff consequently claimed for loss of income, damages, interest and costs of suit. The defendant lodged a counter-claim alleging that the plaintiff/first counter-defendant had breached the memorandum of understanding concluded between the parties and had, through various means, attempted to cripple the defendant’s/counter-claimant’s enterprise. It alleged further, as the basis of its challenge to the legality of the arrangement between the first and second counter-defendants, that the just-mentioned parties had colluded in this endeavour so as allow the latter to become the new LTR.
The defendants/counter-claimants successfully raised the procedural bar of res judicata – which prohibits judicially-decided matters from being heard afresh a second time – concerning the plaintiff’s claim, given that the matter of their indebtedness thereto had been resolved in the settlement of antecedent winding-up proceedings. To what extent ought the defendant’s/counter-claimant’s challenge have been raised as part of the previous lawsuit? Suggesting that res judicata was applicable to both parties’ claims, the court nevertheless considered the counter-claimant’s’ case in respect of the first and second counter-defendants and found no measure of illegality or bad faith on the evidence. The counter-claimant was additionally time-barred from seeking review of the National Drug Authority’s decision over the LTR change.
The plaintiff’s suit and defendants’ counter-claims were accordingly dismissed with costs.
In this case the applicant wanted a writ of mandamus to compel the first respondent to pay the outstanding amounts with interest as ordered from the High Court. This case emphasizes that there must be a clear right in order to use a mandamus.
The court held that in order to obtain a writ of mandamus the following must be established: (1) a clear legal right and a corresponding duty in the respondent; (2) that some specific act or thing which the law requires that particular officer to do has been omitted to be done by him; (3) lack of any alternative, and (4) whether the alternative remedy exists but is inconvenient, less beneficial or less effective or totally ineffective.
The rights of the party seeking the writ of mandamus must not be doubtable. The court was not satisfied that the issues regarding the interest to be awarded and the amount due where properly determined. The court found that the applicant’s rights were doubtable. The court dismissed the application and advised the parties to seek an appropriate intervention to give proper interpretation of the trial judge’s judgment.
The plaintiff brought an action for breach of contract, for the defendant to pay the balance of the money paid by the plaintiff to the defendant in terms of their contract, and for interest on the amount.
The sourt held that on the evidence the defendant failed to deliver all the sugar within the seven weeks. The defendants did not adduce any evidence to the contrary, and the plaintiff was entitled to refund of the money paid for the sugar. The issue was whether general damages ought to be awarded in addition to interest on the outstanding amount.
Section 50 of the Sale of Goods Act provided that the remedy for wrongful non-delivery was damages. The measure was the estimated loss directly and naturally resulting in the ordinary course of events from the seller’s breach of contract. General damages will usually be awarded to place the plaintiff in as close a position as possible they would have been had the injury not occurred. Where interest is awarded for deprivation of monies to be paid, then general damages will not be awarded in addition to interest. The award of interest would place the plaintiff in its original position.
The court held that the plaintiff did not adduce evidence of what loss was suffered to warrant an award of general damages. Interest was therefore awarded in lieu of general damages.
The plaintiff instituted a civil action against the defendant for breach of contract and sought the following remedies: an order for specific performance, special damages, general damages and interest.
The court had to consider whether the plaintiff had a cause of action, whether the defendant was in breach or failed to perform and whether the plaintiff was entitled to any relief.
The court held that a cause of action existed and that the defendant was indeed in breach as he failed to perform his part of the bargain, consequently the plaintiff was entitled to relief.
The court stated that where a plaintiff has a liquidated demand, there is no need to assess the demand where no defense is presented. The court relied on previous judgments that made a distinction between a liquidated demand and pecuniary damages. With further reliance on existing civil procedure legislation, the court found that the plaintiff was entitled to judgement based on the liquidated demand.
The court awarded judgment in favour of the plaintiff for the amount on the liquidated demand. Due to no evidence being led, relief in the form of special and general damages was not awarded. The court granted the plaintiff 10% interest on the amount in the liquidated demand.
The plaintiff instituted an action against the defendant to recover a sum of money owed to the plaintiff for the construction of a television complex constructed by the plaintiff on the defendant’s premises. The defendant submitted a counterclaim.
The court was faced with a number of issues to resolve, namely: whether the deed of variation entered into by the parties was void for illegality; whether the plaintiff breached he contract; whether the plaintiff is entitled to any remedies and whether the defendant is entitled to their counter claim.
The court held that (i) the deed of variation was enforceable; (ii) the plaintiff was not in breach of contract; (iii) the counter claim by the defendant must fail and that the plaintiff was entitled to remedies for the sum withheld.
The court relied on existing legislation to distinguish between variation and amendment- the former dealt with changes in the contract relating to the price, completion date or statement of requirements of the contract and the latter related to changes in terms and conditions of the awarded contract. The court relied on witness testimonies from which it determined that the plaintiff was not in breach of contract.
The defendant’s counterclaim was dismissed, and the plaintiff awarded Shs 749,884,386 being the money owed to it by the defendant. Interest was set at 19% p.a. Costs were ordered in favour of plaintiff.
This is a case relating to to a contractual dispute where the plaintiff was suing the defendant for breach of contract.
The defendant had been contracted by the Uganda Revenue Authority to construct a border post. The defendant then sub-contracted the plaintiff to perform certain work under three contracts. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant unlawfully terminated one of the contracts after they demanded payment. The defendant contended that it was the plaintiff who unilaterally terminated the contract by halting work at the site resulting in the defendant taking over the work. The defendant further counter-claimed that the plaintiff used some of their equipment and as result the plaintiff owes them compensation.
The court held that there were disparities between the plaintiff’s witnesses and that the defendant did not unilaterally terminate the contract. It ruled that the defendant could not be held liable for any sum of money beyond payment for work the plaintiff had actually performed. The court also found that there was no evidence to show that the amount of work done was to a value in excess of what was paid.
The case was dismissed. The counter-claim was equally dismissed for lack of evidence
The issue was whether an arbitrator has power to amend a contract.
The applicant was challenging an arbitral decision arguing that the composition of the arbitration tribunal and the award itself were wrong. It argued that the arbitrator dealt with an issue which was not contemplated by the parties and that he amended the subject contract in contravention of clause 10 of the contract. The applicant further alleged that the conduct of the arbitrator showed bias in favor of the respondents.
The respondent on the other hand argued that there was no evidence to show that the arbitrator was partial. They further contended that there was no contravention of clause 10 because the amendments were made in terms of clause 13 of contract.
In deciding the case, the court held that amendments to the contract cannot be made without consensus of each party. It ruled that an amendment in terms of clause 13 required an arbitrator appointed in accordance with that provision. It further held that the clause 10.2 of the contract only allowed an amendment by agreement in writing by both parties which was not the case in the matter before the court.
On allegations of partiality of the arbitrator, the court found that communication between the applicant and respondent shows likelihood of bias. The court further ruled that the composition of the tribunal was not in accordance with the contract. All these amounted to breach of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act. The arbitration award was set aside.
The dispute emanated from the arrest of the plaintiff’s workers on the instruction of defendant, the National Forestry Authority on allegation of illegally felling trees. This was despite the fact that the plaintiff was licensed to harvest the trees. The plaintiff was forced to pay 150 000 shillings for the tools and logs impounded by the police.
The plaintiff claimed compensation amounting to 3 million shillings for mistreatment, mental health and psychological torture at the hands of the defendant. She further claimed special damages for loss of income. The plaintiff submitted that the defendant breached the license awarded to the plaintiff to harvest abandoned logs
The defendant contended that that the plaintiff breached her license by illegally harvesting timber beyond what was permitted by the license. It argued that the plaintiff’s claim was outrageous in view of the fact that she abandoned the license and that the allegations of mistreatment was frivolous. On special damages, the defended argued that the plaintiff failed to produce evidence to show any loss.
In deciding the matter, the court held that the defendant was in breach of its obligations towards the plaintiff and awarded damages of 3 million shillings for breach of the contract, lost opportunities and inconveniences suffered. The claim for special damages was dismissed.
The plaintiffs sued the defendant for breach of contract. The first plaintiff claimed US $190,747 for services rendered to the defendant. The second plaintiff claimed US $3,085 being the outstanding balance for provision of services to the defendant before their contract was terminated. The plaintiffs each reached a settlement agreement in which the defendant was going to pay a portion of the claimed amount.
The plaintiffs later claimed they concluded the first payment under duress, and sought the full amounts originally claimed plus interest.
The defended raised a defence of res judicata on the grounds that the case was premised on a subject matter which has been previously decided. It produced letters of acknowledgment of full payment.
The court dismissed the res judicata defence on the basis that this was a different case because there were new parties and that the plaintiffs were now seeking interest. However, the court held that there was no evidence of duress and if the plaintiffs were assaulted they should have made a police report. The court ruled that it cannot ignore the letter of acknowledgement of full payment on the grounds that a contract entered by parties should be respected.
The case was dismissed with costs.
The plaintiff was contracted to supply a fleet of vehicles to the defendant. The parties agreed that the plaintiff would supply the vehicles on the specified date of the launch of a fundraising drive; as the cars were required as prizes in a lottery. Upon delivery, the defendant was to ensure that 100% of the purchase price was paid within two weeks after the launch.
The plaintiff supplied four vehicles timeously but the remaining were allegedly delivered late. The defendant subsequently failed to make payment for the vehicles. The plaintiff filed an action for breach of contract. The issue before the court was whether the defendant was liable for breach of contract and whether the plaintiff was entitled to the remedies sought.
This court held that the loss which the plaintiff claimed to have incurred was self-inflicted. This court found the plaintiff’s suit had no merit and suite was dismissed. The reason being that the plaintiff’s evidence was said to not proven supply of vehicles and breach of contract on the defendant's part.
The defendant procured the services of the plaintiff for upgrades to some of the city’s drainage sites. Following the defendant’s non-payment – pursuant to the issuing of several interim payment certificates by the project manager – the plaintiff terminated the contract, upon which time a final certificate was issued by the project manager for work hitherto completed, in observance of the agreement’s termination procedure. The defendant objected to the payable figures outlined in the final certificate due to its apparent failure to factor in alleged performance anomalies on the part of the plaintiff. The defendant unilaterally reviewed the certificates before issuing a final certificate with a reduced outstanding fee. Establishing which set of certificates was legally enforceable formed the heart of the dispute.
The court ruled in favour of the plaintiff, finding the defendant’s claims to be substantially impaired on several grounds. The regulations impacting the issue and review of payment certificates came into force after the conclusion of the contract, so general legal principles and the agreement’s terms took precedence in the court’s analysis. The defendant’s unilateral amendment of the final certificate did not accord with the parties’ General Conditions of Contract; it was not delivered to the plaintiff nor agreed to in writing thereby.
The issuing of final certificates creates a liquid debt – discrepancies ought to have been raised prior to certification and resolved by adjudication or arbitration as per the parties’ agreement. Failing this, the court found that the set-off sought by the plaintiff ought to have been raised in the current suit via counter-claim and not through unilateral adjustment of the final certificate.
The defendant was found further to have misrepresented a final certificate of completion to the plaintiff, following the project manager’s issuing thereof, and consequently estopped from raising the erroneous conduct of its project manager as a justification for its non-payment. The plaintiff was awarded damages with interest reflecting the conventional rate for commercial banking.
The plaintiff’s action against the defendant is for a declaration that the defendant breached the contract executed with the plaintiff for the supply of 1000 metric tons of bitumen.
The issue was whether the defendant breached the contract entered with the plaintiff. The court held that it amounted to a breach of a contract whilst reiterating that the plaintiff made it impossible for the defendant to perform the contract.
The court considered whether the defendant breached the contract for the agreed timeline or the plaintiff breached the contract by failure to take the supply of what the plaintiff ordered hence the counterclaim. It was then a question of fact as to whether any contract is frustrated by any even or factor looking into the obligations of the parties. In this case the frustrating event advanced by the defendant is blockage of its money.
The court explained the principle of frustration. Section 66 (1) of the Contracts Act 2010 provides for discharge of parties to a contract from future performance of the contract unless the opposite party assumed the risk of impossibility. It simply means that both parties ought to be discharged of their obligations for the future performance of the contract. In other words the defendant is discharged from the supply obligation as much as the plaintiff is discharged from the obligations of a buyer.
The court ruled that the contract had not been frustrated and the defendant was in breach of contract.
In 1998 the appellant filed a suit against the respondent, to which the responded reacted with a counter-claim. The appellant’s claim was withdrawn in 2006 but the respondent’s counter-claim was not. The trial judge ruled in favour of the respondent. The appellants were dissatisfied with the decision and filed an appeal.
The Court of Appeal considered whether the burden of proof of fraud alleged in the counter-suit rested on the appellants. The court held that the burden of proof rests on the party who alleges that fraud was committed. In this case, the appellants had withdrawn their case against the respondent and only the respondent’s counter-claim remained. Consequently, the court upheld the appellant’s complaint and placed the burden to prove that fraud was committed on the respondent.
The court then considered whether the lease of the suit property to the first appellant was fraudulent and reviewed the lower court’s order in cancellation. The court held that fraud must be specifically pleaded and strictly proved and cannot be left to be inferred from the facts. Neither party attempted to prove fraud against the other. Therefore, the courts held that the lease of the suit property to the first appellant was not fraudulent and that the trial judge should not have cancelled the first appellant’s certificate of title.
The court also considered whether the respondent’s lease agreement was breached because the first appellant denied the respondent possession of the suit land and reviewed the lower court’s order to extend the respondents lease. The court found that the respondent was in breach of contract and, therefore, had no right of possession and overturned the trial judge’s order to extend the respondent’s lease because the respondent had failed to request it in due course.
All grounds of the appeal succeeded.
The first appellant and the respondent are siblings whom were initially registered as tenants in common, on a land plot. In 2002, the proprietorship of this land was transferred from the names of the siblings to the 2nd to 8th appellants (who were at the time minor children of the first appellant).
The respondent was aggrieved by the transfer and registration of the appellant's descendants to the suit property. She contended that the first appellant had acted fraudulently in this transfer. She went to the High Court seeking reinstatement of her name on the suit title. The High Court granted the orders sought.
The appellants appeal the decision of the High Court. On the grounds that (1) the court erred in evaluating the evidence of the first appellant as a whole, nor recording of his evidence and (2) the respondent freely relinquished her interests in the property.
The respondent filed a cross appeal declaring that she is entitled to award of mesne profits and or general damages as well.
This court found that the transfer form did not amount to forgery or fraud. The appeal therefore succeeded in part. However, it was found that the respondent had not fulfilled the condition of transferring and subdividing part of lands into the names of the respondent - as they agreed.
The respondent was found to have carried out her part of the bargain and the first respondent must do his own as well.
Plaintiff instituted proceedings for breach of contract, special damages, and general damages. Defendant denied any breach took place, and contended that the dispute ought to have been referred to an arbitrator. Defendant also instituted a counterclaim for breach of contract.
The defendant approached the plaintiff for assistance in carrying out a contract with BCEG (Rwanda), and entered into a memorandum of understanding that the profits after expenses would be divided. The defendant failed to pay plaintiff an outstanding amount of monies, or for expenses incurred.
The issues for determination were whether the matter ought to have been referred to arbitration; whether the defendant breached the contract; and the remedies available to the parties.
Regarding issue one, the court stated that the matter could only be referred to arbitration in terms of the parties’ agreement if any of the parties applied to court for arbitration. Though an arbitration clause existed, no application was made to refer the matter to arbitration. The court could not invoke its inherent jurisdiction to refer the matter to arbitration without an application being made.
As regards issue two, the court found that the plaintiff proved that the defendant breached the contract. The defendant failed to deal specifically with the claims of the plaintiff, and instead provided blanket denials which the court held to be insufficient to disprove the plaintiff’s claims.
As regards the remedies available to the parties, the plaintiff failed to prove liability for special damages, but was entitled to general damages.
The defendants applied for credit facilities to obtain steel products from the plaintiff. The second and third defendants stood surety. The plaintiff contended that the defendants refused to pay for the steel products. The proceedings were for breach of contract, and special and general damages. The defendants denied concluding the contract, and argued the matter ought to be heard in South Africa.
The issues for determination were whether the court lacked jurisdiction; whether there was a contract between the parties; whether the defendants breached the contract; and whether second and third defendants were liable.
On the issue of jurisdiction, the court considered the agreement. It was clear that the parties consented to the jurisdiction of the High Court of South Africa, however the court held that the Constitution and Judicature Act provided it with unlimited original jurisdiction in all matters. Even when parties had an exclusive jurisdiction agreement, the High Court of Uganda still had jurisdiction to hear and determine the matter before it.
Regarding the existence of the contract, the law required the plaintiff to prove the documents were signed by the second and third defendants. The court found that the plaintiff proved it entered into a valid contract with the defendants.
Whether the defendants breached the contract, the court held that the first defendant breached the contract by failing to pay for the goods, and that the second and third defendants were liable as sureties.
Plaintiff was awarded special and general damages.
This was an application for an order of specific performance compelling the defendants to sign transfers of an aircraft.
The court considered the indebtedness of both parties to each other and held that the plaintiff was indebted to the defendants in respect of leasing and purchasing. The court applied the rule that people who freely negotiate and conclude a contract should be held to their bargain and found that the plaintiff’s defence of duress was unviable, since the defendants were entitled to ground the aircraft on grounds of non-payment.
Secondly, the court determined whether the defendants/counterclaimants were entitled to the interest payments claimed in the counterclaim. The court held that the defendants were entitled to the interest as agreed upon in the reconciliation document.
Thirdly, the court considered whether the counter-claimants/ defendants have a cause of action against the second defendant. The court relied on the concept that only parties to a contract can sue for breach (privity of contract). It observed that there were exceptions to this rule where a third party can prove that he is a beneficiary of the contract between the two people. The court held that the defendants were third party beneficiaries since the loan agreement between the first defendant and the second defendant was for their benefit.
Accordingly the case was dismissed and the defendant was awarded special damages and general damages as prayed for, but denied aggravated damages.
The appellant who undertook to invest and acquire shares in a telecom company brought an action
against the respondents for breach of contract, damages and interest. The appellant’s suit was dismissed
on a preliminary point of law as it disclosed no cause of action against the 2 nd and 3 rd respondents.