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 was an appeal based on the decision of the trial court to try the question of res judicata as preliminary point of law. Res judicata dictates that once a matter is decided by a competent court it cannot be reopened in subsequent litigation.
The court held that the trial court erred in its interpretation of order 33 rule 5 of the High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2004 by purporting to put an end to the full scale trial. The court held that in such circumstances, a plea of res judicata should only be sustained if it would result in a substantial disposal of the matter or render the determination of the other issues in the matter unnecessary. The court considered the uncertainty over the subject matter and the fact that a merit consideration of the action had already begun (at the trial court).
Accordingly, the appeal was upheld and an order made for the case to be remitted to the trial court for a re-trial.
This appeal considered whether the respondent was barred from re-litigating a matter concerning a dispute on the ownership of property based on the concept of res judicata. Res judicata dictates that once a matter is decided by a competent court it cannot be reopened in subsequent litigation.
The court applied the rule that an appellate court must evaluate the evidence on record as if the case is being heard afresh. The court noted that the plea of res judicata was not explicitly set out by the appellant in the High Court though it was raised as a ground of appeal to the court of appeal. The court observed that the previous courts failed to consider the plea. Base on the evidence on record, the court was satisfied that the properties described by the respondent n her writ of summons had once been litigated and held that the respondent was estopped from re-litigating the issue.
Accordingly, the court set aside the decisions of the High Court and Court of Appeal and deemed it worthy to consider the other grounds of appeal.
The case concerned the parameters for determination when faced with a second appeal, as well as the elements to establish a plea of res judicata.
It was found that there are 4 instances when concurrent findings can be interfered with namely: 1) where the findings of the trial court are unsupported by evidence on record or where reasons in support of the finding are unsatisfactory, 2) where a principle of evidence has been improperly applied, 3) where the findings are based on a wrong proposition of law, and 4) where the finding is inconsistent with crucial documentary evidence on record.
In the second appeal it was argued that the matter was res judicata. Thus, that the matter has already been determined between the same parties before a competent court. The essential elements to establish for a plea of res judicata are: 1) there has been an earlier decision on the issue, 2) there has been a final judgment on the merits and 3) the same parties in both suits. The court found that the matter was not res judicata as although premised on similar facts with the same parties, the merits of the action differ. Furthermore, the court found that the decision of the lower court was perverse and unsupported by the evidence.
The respondents/plaintiffs had successfully approached a court seeking a declaration of rights asserting their bona fide title in respect of certain immoveable property. They further sought a permanent injunction against the appellant/defendant, who alleged a stronger claim to the property, barring its interference therewith.
The appellant appealed the factual findings of the trial court, which the Court of Appeal found were substantiated by the evidence on record. Absent any evidence of perversity in its factual conclusions, its findings were deemed reliable on appeal.
The respondents adduced evidence which met the criteria – from the instructive methodology of the Supreme Court – for the proof of declaration of title to land. They showed that the property had been lawfully conveyed to their grandfather and fallen unto them by succession, after which time they consistently exercised possession and ownership rights thereover. The appellant adduced insufficient evidence to establish his contestations of historical ownership to the property having accrued to his family via crown grant, as well as his own roots of title.
The appellant/defendant unsuccessfully tried to raise estoppel on the grounds of res judicata, alleging that the matter had already been heard by the Lands Registry Court. The appellate court made an adverse finding on the basis that the parties’ dispute had been incomprehensively ventilated before that authority and so res judicata could not apply.
The appeal was dismissed.
The plaintiff supplier sued the defendant – its Local Technical Representative (LTR) in accordance with the National Drug Authority Act for the distribution of pharmaceutical products – for breach of contract. The defendant failed to pay the plaintiff for the assorted products it supplied. The plaintiff consequently claimed for loss of income, damages, interest and costs of suit. The defendant lodged a counter-claim alleging that the plaintiff/first counter-defendant had breached the memorandum of understanding concluded between the parties and had, through various means, attempted to cripple the defendant’s/counter-claimant’s enterprise. It alleged further, as the basis of its challenge to the legality of the arrangement between the first and second counter-defendants, that the just-mentioned parties had colluded in this endeavour so as allow the latter to become the new LTR.
The defendants/counter-claimants successfully raised the procedural bar of res judicata – which prohibits judicially-decided matters from being heard afresh a second time – concerning the plaintiff’s claim, given that the matter of their indebtedness thereto had been resolved in the settlement of antecedent winding-up proceedings. To what extent ought the defendant’s/counter-claimant’s challenge have been raised as part of the previous lawsuit? Suggesting that res judicata was applicable to both parties’ claims, the court nevertheless considered the counter-claimant’s’ case in respect of the first and second counter-defendants and found no measure of illegality or bad faith on the evidence. The counter-claimant was additionally time-barred from seeking review of the National Drug Authority’s decision over the LTR change.
The plaintiff’s suit and defendants’ counter-claims were accordingly dismissed with costs.
The plaintiffs sued the defendant for breach of contract. The first plaintiff claimed US $190,747 for services rendered to the defendant. The second plaintiff claimed US $3,085 being the outstanding balance for provision of services to the defendant before their contract was terminated. The plaintiffs each reached a settlement agreement in which the defendant was going to pay a portion of the claimed amount.
The plaintiffs later claimed they concluded the first payment under duress, and sought the full amounts originally claimed plus interest.
The defended raised a defence of res judicata on the grounds that the case was premised on a subject matter which has been previously decided. It produced letters of acknowledgment of full payment.
The court dismissed the res judicata defence on the basis that this was a different case because there were new parties and that the plaintiffs were now seeking interest. However, the court held that there was no evidence of duress and if the plaintiffs were assaulted they should have made a police report. The court ruled that it cannot ignore the letter of acknowledgement of full payment on the grounds that a contract entered by parties should be respected.
The case was dismissed with costs.