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.
The plaintiff/appellant unsuccessfully sued the defendant/respondent for breach of contract following the latter’s refusal to accept delivery of the relevant goods. Curtailing the appellant’s sizeable claim for special damages, the High Court awarded only nominal damages – an order later confirmed by the Court of Appeal.
At the Supreme Court, the scope of section 48 of the Sale of Goods Act (the act) was elucidated: the computation of damages thereunder may be either general or special depending on the circumstances of each case. General damages refer to those which are foreseeable without proving that special circumstances were brought to the breaching party’s attention. Special damages are those which are foreseeable by the parties at the time of contracting because certain circumstances have been highlighted which render the damages within the realm of the signatories’ reasonable contemplation. These must be pleaded and proved at trial.
The plaintiff’s claim for special damages for the losses suffered by the breach was not proven before the High Court and were subsequently abandoned. The Supreme Court thus took the plaintiff to be entitled only to general damages under section 48 of the act. To this end, the plaintiff did not lead any evidence on the multipliers which would entitle the court to award enhanced damages. Section 48 caters to the contract price/market price differential and not to a computation of lost profits. The plaintiffs failed to adduce sufficient evidence to merit the proposed determination of damages and so the nominal award made by High Court in terms of s 48 was adequate.
The appeal was dismissed.
This case involved an allegation that the defendant had not paid fully for services stipulated within an advertising agreement with the plaintiff. This case illustrates the importance interpreting the terms within a contract in line with what the parties to that contract had agreed.
The court held that the court’s duty is to interpret clause 4 of the contract in order to determine what the parties had agreed to. The court had regard to statements of English authority on the interpretation of commercial contracts. In particular,
that ‘[t]here must be ascribed to the words a meaning that would make good commercial sense … and not some meaning imposed … that no businessman in his right senses would be willing to incur.’
The court was satisfied that the according to the terms of the contract, the plaintiff as the ‘landlord’ had provided the defendant as the ‘advertiser’ space for advertising, and undertaken the contested printing activities for its benefit. The court held that the only sensible interpretation of the contract was that the cost of this printing was to be borne by the defendant because the alternative view would lead to a conclusion that ‘flouts common business sense’.
The court ruled that the defendant was supposed to pay the 3.5 million Ugandan shillings for the printing.
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.
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.