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 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 plaintiff/appellant was aggrieved the Court of Appeal’s reduction of a damages award made by the High Court pursuant to its compensation claim for wrongful termination of employment. The Court of Appeal held that the award was excessive on several grounds – a finding that formed the basis of this appeal.
The Supreme Court emphasised that the court’s discretion to award damages must be done so judiciously. That the trial judge’s order was influenced by factors such as the size of the plaintiff’s family, the defendant/respondent’s instituting of a failed prosecution and delays in court proceedings – which the appellant sought in vain to attribute to the respondent – rendered the extent of the award ill-considered. Moreover, the High Court neglected to provide a terminating point for the computation of the appellant’s salary and allowances, which translated to excessiveness. Guided by the case law, the court fashioned a reasonable award which more closely considered the parties’ situation.
Deviating from the Court of Appeal’s order, the Supreme Court found it was unfair that payment of the appellant’s other employment entitlements was limited to its provident fund. It therefore altered this portion of the below court’s order to reflect that the appellant be paid all earnings, entitlements or remuneration which it was owed for the period of fifteen months after the wrongful dismissal. It similarly reversed the Court of Appeal’s substitution of the High Court’s award of three-months’ salary to one-month’s salary, finding that this reduction was unfair in the absence of any reasoning therefor.
The appeal was upheld in part.
The case considered the following issues, being (1) whether the lower court was right when it struck out the appellants notice of appeal on the ground of non-payment of filing fees; (2) whether the lower court was rights when it held that the witness statement constituted evidence sufficient to grant default judgment; (3) whether the lower court awarded a double compensation in respect of the same alleged loss; and (4) whether the lower court’s findings with respect to the award for special damages is competent.
The court held that an appeal is not filed unless the appropriate filing fees are paid. However, the fact that the registry failed to collect the filing fees should not be to the detriment of a litigant. Therefore, the lower court erred in striking out the notice of appeal on the ground of non-payment of the filing fees, as the appellant was not ordered to satisfy the filing fees. On the issue of the witness statement, the court found that the evidence to support a default judgment can be oral or documentary. Thus, judgment could be entered into in default based on the statement of claim, or a witness statement. On the issue of damages, the court held that the principle of assessment of damages is to restore the plaintiff to the position in which he would have been if the breach did not occur. The court found that a party cannot be awarded both special and general damages for the same set of fact. The court confirmed that the damages awarded amounted to a double compensation.
Appeal succeeds in part.
The court considered the admissibility of a land agreement, the conditions to prove for the existence of a customary arbitration and the court 's discretion in awarding damages.
The court held that for a document to be admissible it must be relevant to the facts in issue and fulfil the prescribed conditions in law. According to s 108 (1) of the Evidence Act Cap 112, courts are permitted to form their opinion about signatures. The court also held that the conditions for an existence of a customary arbitration are : (a) voluntary submission to arbitration, (b) agreement of binding decision of the arbitration, (c) arbitration was per custom, (d) published award and (d) acceptance of the award. The court held that general damages are the judge's discretion.
The court found that the trial judge was correct in admitting the document as evidence and establishing equitable interest in the land dispute and that the plaintiff had proved better title to the land. The court also found that the parties were aware fully aware of the land in dispute. The court further found that the evidence on record did not meet the condition for an existence of a customary arbitration. Relief cannot be claimed by a deceased person. Also, found that the pleading of the parties and evidence adduced were in tandem with the conclusion made by the trial judge according to s 149 of the Evidence Act.
The court accordingly dismissed the appeal and respondents awarded costs.
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.