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.
This case concerned the difference between a claim for special and general damages. The court found that damages is a method by which courts offer monetary reparation to persons whose rights in contract law have been violated, as a means to restore them to the situation in which they would have been but for the violation. Thus, damages play an invaluable role in the capacity of courts to give solatium (compensation or consolation) to the parties. Therefore, the claim for damages will be premised on the cause or causes of the violation and the consequences attached. The court found that in order to succeed with a claim for damages the plaintiff must satisfy the court with credible proof that there has been a breach, giving rise to the cause of action.
The plaintiff claimed loss of labour, unrefunded deposits and administrative expenses in its claim for damages, constituting special damages. While general damages are presumed by the law from the invasion of a right, special damages refer to the particular damage suffered by a party beyond that presumed by law from the mere fact of an invasion of a right and must be proved strictly by evidence. Thus, if a plaintiff does not specifically plead his loss and prove it, he cannot succeed in a claim for special damages.
The appeal succeeds in part.
Trademark – Infringing mark resembles with the plaintiff’s mark – Infringement proved
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 was a registered owner of "Feathers" sanitary pads and claimed that the defendant imported "Featlhers" sanitary pads to be sold in Uganda. The court considered whether the plaintiff had exclusive use of a trademark which was infringed by importation and sale of a product.
The court held that s 36 of the Trade Marks Act grants exclusive use of a mark, which is infringed if a person who is not the owner of that mark uses it and causes confusion to average consumers. Civil proceedings may be instituted in terms of s 79(1). According to ss 79(3) and (4), the grant of an injunction does not affect a claim of damages, direct loss of sales and consequent loss of profits as well as the depreciation of the goodwill. Section 81(1) provides that one available form of relief is an account of profits to the plaintiff.
The court found that the plaintiff had exclusive use of the trademark. Despite the minor differences the goods were the same visually, conceptually, phonetically and belonged to the same class of goods. Therefore, concluded that the goods would likely confuse reasonable consumers. The defendants were guilty of infringement of the trademark by selling and importation of the sanitary pads. The plaintiff did not deal with the actual loss of sales, and no evidence was adduced to show that the counterfeit goods were circulating in Uganda.
The plaintiff's complaints were upheld. The court granted costs, ordered the destruction of the impounded goods, permanent injunction and general damages.
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.
In this case the plaintiff claimed for special and general damages against the defendant for fraud and conversion of the plaintiff’s petroleum products. The case deals with fraud, where the party that benefited was not a bona fide purchaser of the products in this case. The court considered whether the defendant had good title for the products sold to him by the third party. Whether the defendant had a claim against the third party and whether there were remedies available to the parties.
In dealing with the first issue the court considered whether the defendant had acquired a better title than the mysterious seller had because the mysterious seller did not have any title to the good. The court applied the general rule in the latin maxim nemo dat quod non habet which was reflected in section 22 (1) of the Sale of Goods Act. The court found that the mysterious seller had no title to pass to the defendant and thus the defendant never acquired good title to the property. Therefore, the defendant was liable to make good any loss suffered by the plaintiff as a result of the conversion of the plaintiff’s goods.
In considering the second issue, the court found that the defendant had proved the transaction it had made with the third party and was therefore indemnified against the third party.
In considering the remedies available to the parties, the court held that general damages are compensatory to fulfil the principle of restitution in integrum which aims at restoring the plaintiff as nearly as possible to the position he or she would have been had the injury not occurred.
Therefore, the court upheld the plaintiff’s claim with costs.
The court also held that for the indemnity suit against the third party, the third party was to settle all liabilities ordered against the defendant less the amount against the defendant.
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.