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.
A preliminary objection by the respondent set out to expose the lack of due diligence on the part of the appellant. The respondent’s claim was that the appellant’s records were fundamentally defective and incompetent. This was because the records of the appellant were issued signed by "N. Nwanodi & Co," (which is not a legal practitioner recognized by law in Nigeria) instead of counsel’s actual name.
The counsel for appellant stated that the habit of legal practitioners' merely signing court processes in their firm's name without indicating their actual name has been allowed by this court in many cases. Thus, it was an over-adherence to technicality to annul the process improperly filed.
The respondent sought this court to employ purposive interpretation of sections 2(1) and 24 of the Legal Practitioners Act (the act) that would lead to the conclusion that the record filed was indeed fundamentally defective.
This court upheld the preliminary objection of the respondent. It held that the appellant's' notice of appeal was fundamentally defective. It concluded that the purpose of sections 2(1) and 24 of the act was to ensure accountability on the part of a legal practitioner who signs court processes.
The issue was whether the trial judge’s decision was affected by the lapse of time (19 months) between the adoption of written addresses and the delivery of judgment. The dispute emanated from the dismissal of the respondent as the principal assistant registrar of the appellant college. The respondent successfully challenged the dismissal and the lower court awarded him damages amounting to approximately 1.6 million Naira together with reinstatement.
The appellant challenged the lower court’s ruling on the grounds that due to the time lapse between the hearing of evidence and delivery of judgement the trial judge was not able to make proper judgement. The appellants further argued that the s 294(1) Constitution requires that judgement must be delivered in 3 months.
The court pointed out that section 294(5) of the Constitution also provides that delay in the delivery of judgment does not lead to a judgment being vitiated. The delay must occasion a miscarriage of justice to result in such a conclusion.
In deciding the matter, the court held that the errors made by the trial judge shows that he was no longer in position to properly appraise the evidence. This resulted in the miscarriage of justice and the appeal was upheld.
Contract Law – payment of money – specific performance Civil procedure – jurisdiction - ratio decidendi
The court considered whether the second respondent was an agent of the appellants and entitled to a commission.
The court held that an agency is a fiduciary relationship created when a principal gives authority to an agent to act on his behalf which is accepted by the agent. The court also held that for a real estate agent to claim commission they must show that there was an introduction of a purchaser which was an efficient cause in bringing about the sale of a property. Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners 2007 Rule 7(2)(b) does not forbid a legal practitioner from engaging in the business of a commission agent.
The court found that there was no illegality in the agency agreement between the second respondent and appellants.
The court accordingly dismissed the appeal and awarded costs to the respondent.
The court exercised its original jurisdiction to interpret constitutional provisions relating to the right of the General Legal Council to introduce examinations and interview as requirements for admission into the practical component of the law course.
The defendants raised a preliminary objection disputing the jurisdiction of the court claiming there was no issue of interpretation and also claimed that the plaintiff lacked locus standi (standing to bring the matter before the court). The court held that the matter was of public interest thus the plaintiff did not have to demonstrate personal interest. The court determined whether the imposition of the new admission requirements was unconstitutional. It was held that the council had the authority to do so but it was unconstitutional since the new requirements were implemented without legal backing (regulations). Secondly, the court determined whether the council’s failure to specify alternative places and modes of instruction for students who qualified to join the school of law was unconstitutional and held that the plaintiff was unable to prove the same. Accordingly, the matter succeeded in part and the court declared that the new admission requirements that led to exclusion of qualified persons were unconstitutional and that the Council’s policy on reviewing examination scripts and quota violated the constitution.
The court was called upon to review a decision of the Court of Appeal that held that a lawyer without a valid licence to practice cannot practice law nor prepare any court process. The court below held that any process originated by a lawyer without a licence is null. The majority decision of the court held that where a lawyer endorses a writ and court process, but he did not have a licence at the time, he cannot be said to be functioning as a lawyer and not capable of endorsing the court process. A litigant who fails to verify the legal capacity of is lawyer cannot claim miscarriage of justice because the writ endorsed by an unlicensed practitioner is without legal effect.
The court was called upon to answer whether or not a breach of the constitutional provision on privacy relating to proceedings to remove a Judge renders the contents of a publicized petition to remove the judge null and void. In this case the petition to remove the judge was released to the media. The court held that only when the Chief Justice or investigating committee decides there isn’t a prima facie case against the judge can the impeachment proceedings be brought to an end. The public disclosure of a petition to remove a judge is not a ground to end the process to remove a judge as this can only happen in the two instances outlined previously. When allegations are brought against a judge, they must be investigated and public disclosure of the petition does not negate the need for an investigation.
The matter involve a ruling of contempt of court against the third and fourth respondents for their conduct in attacking the Chief Justice with an accusation of bias.
The court emphasised the importance of judicial independence as enshrined in the Constitution as a necessary element in maintaining judicial dignity and effectiveness, attributes that are crucial in upholding the democratic enterprise. Any attempt to disrespect the courts therefore amounts to an attack on the role of the courts and the community at large.
The court also emphasised the right to criticise the judiciary and its circumspection in exercising its power to charge citizens with contempt. However, should the conduct be of such gross a nature as to indicate a calculated attack, as in the present matter, the court would not refrain from the charge.
The court, however, acknowledged the harsh nature of the summary powers to charge for contempt, powers it accepted required circumspection. Nevertheless, the court considered the need to send a message to remind people to refrain from crossing the line between utilizing their freedom of expression and attacking the dignity of the court. It also invoked the principles of state policy which place duties to the citizenry to ensure the exercise of their freedoms upheld fundamental democratic principles. In the view of the court, the contemnors in question had dismally failed the above and therefore they were sentenced for contempt.
The court considered whether a Financial Services Provider (FSP) as regulated according to the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services Act (FAAIS) was negligent by advising the plaintiff which led to a loss of two million Rands. Further, if the second defendant was liable to indemnify the first defendant for professional negligence considering the exclusion clause in the insurance contract.
The court held that s 16 of FAAIS requires that an FSP act honestly, fairly with due skill, care and diligence. Further that the FAAIS Code of Conduct requires professionalism, in the interest of the public. In the case of an insurance contract, the court held that an exclusion clause might make proper commercial sense, be consistent with and not repugnant to the purpose of the contract.
The court concluded that the defendant did not act in accordance with expectations of an FSP, the defendant was negligent and dishonest. Further, the purpose of the insurance contract was to indemnify the insured for professional negligence; the exclusion interpreted restrictively cannot be applicable in the case.
The defendant was ordered to pay damages of two million Rands plus interest and second defendant to indemnify the first defendant.
This was an application to compel the Competition Commission of South Africa to produce a record of investigation.
The issue emanated from an investigation by the respondent on banks on allegation of collusive conduct in regard to trade in foreign currency. The applicant was one of the banks investigated. The applicant requested without success on several times for the record of investigation from the respondent. It then made an application to compel the respondent to provide the record.
The respondent opposed the application arguing that the applicant should have proceeded by way of review under Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA) because its action amounted to an administrative act. The applicant on the other hand argued that the commission’s conduct did not constitute administrative action and the tribunal should consider the application.
In deciding the matter, the Competition Tribunal held that the respondent action did not qualify as administrative action because it does not meet the requirement of finality. However, it found that the Competition Commission cannot be compelled to provide the requested record because of the complex nature of the process. It ruled that the respondent should provide the requested record during discovery.
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 issue was whether an arbitrator has power to amend a contract.
The applicant was challenging an arbitral decision arguing that the composition of the arbitration tribunal and the award itself were wrong. It argued that the arbitrator dealt with an issue which was not contemplated by the parties and that he amended the subject contract in contravention of clause 10 of the contract. The applicant further alleged that the conduct of the arbitrator showed bias in favor of the respondents.
The respondent on the other hand argued that there was no evidence to show that the arbitrator was partial. They further contended that there was no contravention of clause 10 because the amendments were made in terms of clause 13 of contract.
In deciding the case, the court held that amendments to the contract cannot be made without consensus of each party. It ruled that an amendment in terms of clause 13 required an arbitrator appointed in accordance with that provision. It further held that the clause 10.2 of the contract only allowed an amendment by agreement in writing by both parties which was not the case in the matter before the court.
On allegations of partiality of the arbitrator, the court found that communication between the applicant and respondent shows likelihood of bias. The court further ruled that the composition of the tribunal was not in accordance with the contract. All these amounted to breach of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act. The arbitration award was set aside.
The applicant was a client of the first and second respondents, who represented the plaintiff (third respondent, a company) in a case against the applicant. The applicant claimed that during the legal representation, the first and second respondents became aware of facts prejudicial to him which were a violation of advocate and client relationship, thus applied for an injunction.
The court considered whether the first and second respondents also handled matters which would arise in the suit against the applicant while representing the third respondent.
The court held that where there was a fiduciary relationship, the irrebuttable presumption is that there is a possibility of disclosure. Further, although some authorities state that the applicant should plead the confidential information that could be reviewed, recent authorities have held that such pleading would be contrary to the intended confidentiality.
The court found that there was a fiduciary relationship between the first and second respondents. Moreso, the parties had a relationship of legal and litigation interaction. Therefore, information prejudicial to the applicant would likely emerge.
The court accordingly granted the application and ordered the disqualification of the first and second respondents from the pending suit.
The issue before the court was an application for extension of time to file an appeal.
The applicant was seeking condonation from the court after he failed to file an appeal within the time prescribed by court rules. He based his appeal on the grounds that he was not aware of the judgment and blamed his lawyer for not informing him of the judgment. He argued that it was just and equitable for the court to extend the time to file the appeal and that there was likelihood of success.
The respondent on the other hand opposed the application arguing that the applicant failed to produce evidence to support its application.
In deciding the case, the court held that court rules empower the court to extend time limits if there are sufficient reasons. It ruled that negligence on the part of the applicant’s counsel amounts to sufficient reason for extension of time limits. The court found that refusal to extend the time limits will cause injustice to the applicant.
The application for extension of time was granted.
The appellant sued the respondent for the allegedly unpaid balance of his retrenchment package. Proceedings at the High Court were adjourned several times and occurred before multiple presiding officers before a final judge made an order against him.
Noticing irregularities on the record of appeal, the appellate court focused on the competence thereof rather than the merits. The trial judge that made the order had failed to observe the relevant provisions of the Civil Procedure Code by neglecting to place on record the reasons why the matter had fallen unto his lap following several adjournments. The case law on the scope of this rule accounts for its importance in terms of judicial integrity and transparency. Moreover, the decree on record had been duly signed by neither the learned judge, nor the Deputy Registrar, as required by law.
These irregularities led the appellate court to exercise its revisional purview under section 4(2) of the Appellate Jurisdiction Act to quash and set aside the High Court judgment, before remitting the matter to the same forum for a competent judge to adjudicate the matter de novo (afresh). No order was made as to costs.
The main case was dismissed because a party did not appear in court when it came up for hearing. The case dealt with an application to set aside the dismissal order of the court. The court held that an application to set aside a dismissal order must be based on sufficient reasons and the court has absolute discretion where sufficient cause is shown. What amounts to reasonable or sufficient cause has not been defined because the court should have the discretion to decide based on the circumstances of each case.
In this case, the applicant claimed they were not aware of the dismissal order. The court held that sufficient reasons were not shown and the court dismissed the application to set aside the dismissal notice because the lawyers were simply negligent.
A court can dismiss a matter for want of prosecution where the person who initiated the court action does not take active steps to pursue the case in court such as not appearing in court. The court dealt with a case where the lawyer did not appear before court on the date for hearing. The case was thereafter dismissed for want of prosecution. This case was an application to set aside the order to dismiss the original court suit for want of prosecution.
To set aside an order that a court suit be set aside for want of prosecution, the applicant must give sufficient grounds that must balanced against the interests of justice. In this case, the lawyer for the applicant did not appear because he was unwell on the court hearing date. The court held that this constituted a sufficient reason to set aside the notice to dismiss the case. In the interests of justice and the compelling reasons, the application to set aside the notice to dismiss was granted.