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 appeal is in relation to whether an order of non-suit was the appropriate order. The appeal originated from an institution of an action against the respondents. The action was centred around an order for damages, due to an unlawful dismissal from employment. The respondent disputed these claims as they contended that the contract was lawfully terminated.
The courts below granted judgment in favour of the appellant. However, in the Court of Appeal a piece of evidence belonging to the appellant was expunged on the ground that those pleadings did not constitute evidence. An order of non-suit was made by the Court of Appeal. It is that order of non-suit that gave rise to this appeal at the Supreme Court.
The appellant submitted that there was a breach of the fundamental right to fair hearing as the non-suit was instituted before hearing. Furthermore, he claimed to have satisfactorily proved his case for damages on the now expunged evidence and that this was therefore not a case in which an order of non-suit ought to have been made.
This court resolved this issue in the appellant's favour and the judgment of the Court of Appeal was set aside. Accordingly, this appeal was remitted to the Court of Appeal to be heard by a different panel.
The respondent/plaintiff had sued the appellant/defendant for a liquidated debt following its default in payment and successfully applied for the matter to be placed on the undefended list. There it was heard exclusively on the papers to the respondent/plaintiff’s success. Two issues emerged on appeal: whether the trial court’s judgment contradicted the evidence, and whether the appellant’s notice of intention to defend disclosed a defence on the merits of the case, thereby justifying the matter’s transfer to the general cause list.
The appellate court held in favour of the respondents on both issues, finding first that the court had been thorough in its analysis of the evidence before it, and had crafted a reasoned order reflecting this.
The judge elucidated the purpose of the undefended list as a vehicle for swift justice where a defendant has no credible case. This was one such instance; the court found that the appellant had failed to raise a triable issue warranting the matter’s transfer to the general cause list. The appellant’s allegations of fraud did not conform to the recognised rules for establishing such a claim and were found lack any substance.
The appellant unsuccessfully invoked s 36(1) of the Constitution, contending that its right to a fair hearing had been breached through its being deprived of a comprehensive trial. The court affirmed the lawful function of the undefended list, emphasising that parties are given equal opportunities to be heard via the papers. Where a defendant was unable to raise a triable issue against the plaintiff’s claim, it could not resort to arguing that audi alterem partem had been flouted.
The appeal was dismissed.
The crux of the matter is whether or not the trial court erred in holding the appellant/defendant was given ample opportunities but failed, refused and/or neglected to defend the suit and present its case before the court. The appellant contended that the lower court’s refusal to re-open the case amounted to a violation of its right to fair hearing. The court held that the appellant had ample time to defend its case but failed.
The second issue was whether the exhibits admitted by the lower court were deserving of ascription of any probative value. The court held that documentary evidence can be admitted in the absence of the maker; what matters is admissibility. This means that a document can be admitted without the court attaching probative value to it.
The court reiterated that where the lower court fails to examine documents tendered before it, an appellate court is in good position to evaluate such exhibits. The court thus held that the lower court erred when it held that the respondents were entitled to judgment.
In the result, the appeal succeeded even though the first issue was held in favor of the respondent.
The appellant brought an appeal against the judgement of the High Court, where the lower court dismissed the appellant’s suit on grounds that the claim had prescribed.
The court considered whether the appellant’s right to a fair hearing could be determined despite having failed to initiate its case prior to it prescribing and whether the High Court correctly dismissed the appellant’s case due to prescription.
The court held that the appellant’s right to a fair hearing could not be determined under the circumstances. The court also held that the High Court incorrectly dismissed the appellant’s case without considering important aspects.
Regarding the right to a fair hearing; the court was of the view that since the appellant initiated their case by writ of summons for a declaration against the respondent, it was not an application for the enforcement of a fundamental right and it stood to be affected by the operation of a statute including any limitations the statute could have had. Furthermore, the court issued that the High Court ought to have made an inquiry as to the definition of a ‘public officer’ as used in the statute and if there were any exceptions to the statute that prescribes claims against public officers after three months. The omission by the High Court was held to be an error.
The appeal was successful, and the judgment of the High Court was set aside. Court ordered the case to be heardafresh by the High Court. No costs were ordered.
The appeal was against a garnishee order attaching a sum of approximately N97 million belonging to the appellant granted by the lower court. The appeal was based on the claim that the garnishee order was made without hearing the appellants’ earlier motion for a of stay execution. This, the appellants argued, was a violation of their right to a fair trial.
The respondent raised a preliminary objection that the appellant had no standing because it was judgement debtor, not the garnishee. It further argued that the appellants had not obtained leave to appeal.
The appellants responded by pointing out that they were respondents to the garnishee application, and that the funds that were to be attached belonged to them. Thus, they had locus standi (the standing and right to file this appeal).
The court held that it is only the garnishee that can appeal an order made by the court. It ruled that garnishee proceedings are strictly between the creditor and the garnishee. It found that the appellant lacked locus standi to file the appeal and the appeal was dismissed.
This is an appeal against a High Court decision granting a summary judgement. The dispute emanated from share trading facility offered to the appellant company by the respondent bank. However, the appellant failed to pay for the shares when payment fell due, prompting the respondent to approach the court where a summary judgement was awarded in favor of the respondent.
The appellant appealed the decision on the ground that it was not given a fair hearing. It pointed out that the determination through summary judgement ignored issues of merit. The appellant argued that sufficient issues had been raised to warrant a full trial of the case, and that it had a bona fide defense.
The respondent opposed the appeal on the basis that the summary judgement was employed to prevent a sham defense, and that an objection to summary judgement must address a specific claim not a general sweeping denial of the claim.
The court held that the case hinges on whether the appellant’s defense constitutes a triable issue. It found that the appellant failed to raise triable issues. It held that the trial court was correct in finding that the appellant defense was a sham. It ruled that the appellant was indebted to the respondent. The appeal was thus dismissed.
The High Court gave a summary judgment in favour of a party relating to a declaration of title to a house, payment of accumulated rent and an order of ejection. The Court of Appeal overturned the judgment but invoked supervisory jurisdiction to make an order compelling issuing of land title to the interested party.
The court held that the interested party could not apply for the supervisory jurisdiction for a judgment that was overturned – and this was impermissible. A party is not permitted to undermine a decision of an appellate court overturning a decision of the trial court to apply for supervisory jurisdiction when the judgment to be supervised has been set aside. For these reasons the application to set aside the supervisory orders was set aside.
This appeal raises the question of admissibility of a document that was alleged to be a privileged document. The petitioner sought to have this document admitted as evidence, while the respondent argued that it should be excluded as the security of the state would be impaired.
The petitioner argued that that if this document was excluded, his constitutional right to fair trial would be violated. He further claimed that if the security of the state would be impaired by such conduct. Section 23(2) of the Constitution allows the court to hear the matters that touch on the security of the state, away from the public.
The respondent relied on s 121 of the Evidence Act. He claimed that this document relates to affairs of state and was therefore inadmissible without the consent of the head of department.
This court stated that when an act of Congress conflicts with constitutionally enshrined provisions; the Constitution prevails because it holds the paramount commands. Furthermore, it was held that the court that has the power to determine whether a matter falls within the exceptions or not. In order to do this, the state must produce evidence upon which the court can act. The state never did so.
The court examined the document in dispute and found it to relate to state security. However, the court overruled the respondent’s objection. The document was admitted as evidence in closed court.
The application was based on the fact that the applicant had been prevented by sufficient cause from filing a defence in a civil suit which according to the court had a meritorious defence that had a high chance of success.
The main issue was whether the default judgment issued by the lower court pursuant to failure to file a written statement of defence should be set aside.
The court reiterated that the burden is on the process server to indicate whether a principal officer or director or secretary of the corporation has been served or to indicate whether he or she was unable to establish who was being served. The serving officer, in this case, was simply quiet about who was served notwithstanding that there is a stamp of the applicant on the signature of the person served. Moreover, the provisions as to service support are a fundamental rule of justice which is that of fair trial. Fair trial includes due notice of the summons on the defendant or persons sought to be summoned to appear in court.
The court held that due to the fundamental requirements of service of process on the secretary, director or other principal officer of the company, the default decree and judgment was set aside. The court held that civil procedure rules makes it necessary to identify the person served in the corporation sufficiently to fulfill the requirements for service on a corporation.
The matter involved an appeal against the decision of the High Court, a decision the appellant contends was arrived at under error of procedural law.
The main issue was whether the decision of the lower court was defective for its failure to afford the appellant her right to be heard. The court relied on case law to establish that it is necessary to afford a party a fair hearing upon making an adverse decision. It accepted the position in Scan - Tan Tours Ltd v the Registered Trustee of the Catholic Diocese of Mbulu Civil Appeal No. 78 of 2012 that when an issue that is pivotal to the whole case is introduced the parties should be given a chance to address the matter before the court. In addition, the court relied on the Rukwa Auto Parts and Transport Ltd v Jestina George Mwakyoma Civil Appeal No. 45 and Abbas Sherally and Another v Abdul Fazalboy Civil Application No. 33 of 2002 cases as authority for the proposition that failure to allow for the right to be heard constituted a breach of natural justice, a fundamental constitutional right.
The court reasoned that the trial court had failed to uphold the appellant’s right to be heard when it arrived at its decision and therefore violated a constitutional right. Hence, the court concluded that the decision could not be allowed and consequently nullified the impugned decision.
The matter involved a dispute over an order of suit property sale as a remedy for breach of a loan agreement granted by the trial court against the appellant.
The first question was whether the responded had paid the whole stipulated loan amount to the appellant. Assessing the evidence in the record from the trial court, the court reasoned that the trial court’s assessment had failed to evaluate crucial evidence that showed doubt in the respondent’s claim that the whole stipulated amount had been paid. The court thus concluded that the evidence indicated that the responded had failed to fully honor its performance obligation. As a result, the responded could not pursue the remedy of obliging the appellant to transfer the property for failure to repay the loan.
The second issue concerned the right to mesne profits (i.e. profits received by tenant in wrongful possession and which are recoverable by the landlord) by the appellant and the amounts due. The court did not dwell much on the question of entitlement, instead accepting the trial court’s finding of indisputable occupation and rental collection by responded as a basis together with the fact that responded could not justify the occupation.
The court thus concluded that mesne profits were owed but order that they be set-off to the amount of the loan that the appellant still owed. The decision of the trial court was therefore set-aside and appeal allowed.
Aggrieved by a High Court decision concerning a dispute with the respondent, the applicant sought leave to escalate the matter to the Court of Appeal. The High Court summarily rejected the application without notice to the parties and prior to the set-down date of the hearing.
The appellate court was wholly convinced by the applicant’s main contention: that the High Court judgment was impugnable because the parties had not yet been heard at the time it was given. Outlining the basic tenets of the audi alterem partem principle, the court affirmed that courts are obligated to afford the parties a full hearing before determining the disputed matter on merit.
The appellate court invoked its revisional powers under section 4(3) of the Appellate Jurisdiction Act, setting aside the High Court’s decision and directing it to rehear the application.
The appellant appealed the decision of the trial court to rely on an affidavit of a court process server, having held that service was properly done. The prime issue for determination was whether the appeal was meritorious.
Order V Rule 16 of the Civil Procedure Code provides that where the serving officer delivers or tenders a copy of summons to the defendant personally or to an agent or other person on his behalf he shall require that person to sign an acknowledgement of service, if refuses to sign the acknowledgement the serving officer shall leave a copy thereof with him and return the original together with an affidavit stating that the person refused to sign the acknowledgement) that he left a copy of the summons with such person and the name and address of the person (if any), by whom the person on whom the summons was served was identified.
The court held that these specifications were not indicated in the process server's affidavit and the trial court never bothered to establish and ascertain if the service was properly done to the appellant to accord her the right to be heard.
The decision of the trial court giving rise to this appeal could not be allowed to stand on account of being arrived at in violation of the constitutional right to be heard. In the result the appeal was granted.