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 appellant sought to overturn a taxation ruling of the Deputy Registrar, contending that the latter had erred in fact and law in coming to its decision. The order prohibited the appellant from charging its client certain fees for services rendered over and above the initial instruction costs.
The Registrar had found that the appellant was estopped from claiming the fees due to the allegedly misleading way it had conducted itself in respect of the client regarding the anticipated bill of costs. The appellate court upheld the challenge, finding that the provisions of the Advocates Act expressly regulated the exclusion of bills of costs, thereby limiting – in terms of s 14 of the Judicature Act – the High Court’s discretion to apply principles of equitability when adjudicating disputes of this nature.
Both legislation and case law affirmed the appellant’s right to taxation of its bill of costs against the respondent, as it had met the relevant statutory requirements.
The issues before the court were whether the registrar erred in law when he did not exercise his jurisdiction to refer the matter to a judge for a final disposal of issues he had found as contentious in his ruling; whether the learned registrar erred in law when he unilaterally dismissed the matter without determining the contentious issues raised therein and whether it is in the interest of justice that the appellant is granted leave to tax its Advocate-Client Bill of Costs.
The court stated that the claims did not arise out of a single transaction and the best way forward for the applicant was to file an action (civil suit) to recover these various claims.
The court came to the conclusion that the application was for recovery of costs and the registrar had no jurisdiction to entertain a dispute between advocate and client as to whether costs or fees were due. Secondly it is alleged that the bill is illegal or arises from an illegal contract. The court upheld the registrar’s decision not to entertain the bill and refer the parties to a suit with the only question remaining of whether he ought to have referred the parties to the judge for trial of the suit. The court reiterated that the registrar reached the right conclusion.
The matter of recovery of costs was contentious and the registrar had no jurisdiction to entertain it.
The court dismissed the appeal.
The appellant sought a declaration against the respondent that the Constitutional Court erred in refusing to award the appellant costs as a successful party and that it also based that refusal to award costs on incorrect principles.
The reference on taxation can be made to the Supreme Court on two grounds namely; on a matter of law or principle or on the ground that the bill of costs as taxed is in all circumstances manifestly excessive or manifestly inadequate.
The court held that there was no principle of law to the effect that the decision of the taxing officer must be subjected to the application of a ‘magic formula’ which when applied would result in a precise figure being arrived at in an almost automatic manner. Every case must be decided on its own merits and its peculiar circumstances, such as prolixity of the case in its preparation and any other peculiar complications in its presentation to the court.
The court held that, due to the difference in cases, uniformity and consistency may at times be defeated. Moreover, other factors ought to be considered by the taxing master. The fund or person bearing the costs must be considered before setting the award. A balance has to be struck between keeping the costs of litigation as reasonable as possible so as not to restrict access to court to only the wealthy, and the need to allow reasonable level of remuneration of advocates to attract worthy recruits to the profession.
In the result, the application was upheld.
The appellant appealed against a taxing officer’s order awarding the second respondent costs of 1, 900, 739/= contending that the instruction fee awarded was based on an incorrect value of the suit. The respondents’ counsel raised preliminary objections inter alia that couldn’t be permitted to raise a new point of law that was not argued in the lower court.
The matter stems from an alleged breach of an agreement of refund by the respondent against the applicant. The agreement in question arose from a breach of the shipping contract by the applicant resulting in the respondent incurring a penalty from Tanzania Revenue Authority.
The main issue is whether the court could order for the joinder of the shipper and agent as defendants even when the applicant does not intend to sue them. The court began by clarifying that it has unlimited powers to join any party as a defendant if it is necessary to enable the court to effectually and completely adjudicate upon and settle all the relevant questions in suit. However, this power is exercised under the guidance of the dominus litis principle that grants the plaintiff the power to decide whom to sue.
In its reasoning, the court could not find a reason why the joinder was necessary as the dispute in question arose from a communication in which only the applicant and respondent were privy. Furthermore, the court heeded the respondent’s contention that as master of her own case she should not be compelled to sue a person she feels she has no claim. The court thus rejected the application to join the shipper and agent as co-defendant.
The applicant applied to set aside an arbitration award made in 2015. It was argued that the arbitrator misconducted herself when she amended the award; when she awarded nominal charges to the second respondent; and gave no reasons for ordering costs against the applicant, who was successful at the arbitration.
An arbitration award may be set aside on the grounds of an error on the face of it when reasons given for the award are based upon a legal proposition that is erroneous. It was found that the arbitrator’s reasons for making the award were erroneous and contrary to the Civil Procedure Code when awarding costs against the winning party. No reasons were provided for apportioning the costs, and for heavily weighting the costs against the winning party.
A court may also set aside an award if it is bad on its face for involving an apparent error in fact or law, or it has not complied with the requirements of finality and certainty. The award was bad on its face as it granted costs based on an apparent error of law by apportioning greater costs to the winning party. It is trite law that the losing party should bear the costs of a matter to compensate the successful party for expenses incurred for having to vindicate their rights.
The court held that there was good cause to remit the part of the award on apportionment of costs for reconsideration by the arbitrator.
This case concerns the unauthorized sale of company shares the by stock brokers.
The Court of Appeal determined whether the lower court erred in its decision to find the appellants liable for the unauthorized and illegal sale of the respondent’s shares. The court held that evaluating evidence is primarily the role of the trial court and that the appellate court will only interfere where there is clear evidence that the lower court failed to evaluate the evidence properly. The court was not satisfied, however, that such evidence was presented. It therefore confirmed the lower court’s decision.
The court also considered whether the lower court correctly attributed costs. It held that decisions as to costs follow the overall decision and found that, in this case, the lower court’s decision regarding costs was reasonable and in accordance with the law. It, therefore, also dismissed this ground for appeal and the entire appeal.
The court considered three issues. Firstly, how a court should exercise its discretion in regulating a motion meant to regularise the process and the other meant to terminate the process. Secondly, whether the respondents were necessary parties to the suit. Lastly, whether the trial court was correct in awarding costs.
The court held that the practice was to give priority to hearing a motion set to regularise a process if the motion succeeds the other motions seeking to terminate the proceedings will be withdrawn. The court also held that respondents are necessary to a suit if they would be directly or financially affected by the outcome of the judgement of the case. Also, the court held that courts have absolute discretion to either award or refuse costs.
The court found that the trial judge instead of taking the motion for joinder and amendment, preliminary objections of the first and second respondent based on jurisdiction were taken which were meant to terminate the points in limine. The court also found that the respondents were necessary parties because they are not only interested in the subject matter of the proceedings, but they constitute those who in their absence the proceedings could not be fairly dealt with. The court found that the costs awarded were not exceptionally high or punitive to conclude that the court's discretion was not in the interest of justice.
The court accordingly upheld the appeal.