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.
The plaintiff won a tender for the supply of various medical supplies and equipment to be distributed by the first defendant. The framework agreement specified that the delivery thereof depended on ‘call off orders’, which were written instructions issued by the first defendant requiring the plaintiff to deliver stipulated numbers of medical supplies on specified dates.
When the first defendant unexpectedly deferred an order for additional supplies, the plaintiff incurred significant unforeseen costs with respect to the storage and security of the delayed goods. The plaintiff therefore instituted a claim against the first defendant for breach of contract.
The issues were common cause. First, whether the order of the goods as agreed was indeed deferred by the defendant. Secondly, whether the defendant delayed its payment for the goods delivered under the contract. These issues were simultaneously dispensed with, the court quickly finding on the evidence before it that the answer two both questions was affirmative.
The third issue, in light of this finding, was whether the defendant’s conduct amounted to a breach. This was also answered in the affirmative as the alterations made by the defendant were a departure from the specified dates and quantities required by the contract’s call off order protocol.
The establishing of loss on the part of the plaintiff to found its claim for damages emerged fourthly. That the record clearly demonstrated the costs incurred by the plaintiff – in the shape of storage and security fees, bank interests and charges from the manufacturer for delayed acceptance of goods – rendered this issue swiftly resolvable by the court.
The fifth issue concerned the determination of relief. The plaintiff was awarded a penalty for delayed payments and further general damages.
Judgment was accordingly entered for the plaintiff.
The essence of the suit was an alleged unjustified refusal by the first defendant to berth resulting in alleged loss to the plaintiff and attaching demurrage charges.
The issue was whether the first defendant deliberately refused to berth a ship, and the court found in the affirmative. The court went on to look at if the refusal was justified. The court found that the master’s refusal to berth was based on unfounded grounds resulting in a two week delay. It was on that basis that the court held that the first and second defendants had not been wrongly sued.
The other issue was whether there was delay in offloading the consignment and whether the plaintiff suffered economic loss. These losses were in a form of demurrage charges, drop in sales as a result of closure of the factory, salaries to workers and bank charges. The court relied on the principle of general damages which states that damages in law presumes follow from the type of wrong complained of. General damages do not need to be specifically have been sustained.
In the result, the suit succeeded and the plaintiff was awarded damages.
The appellant contended that the respondent had wrongly rejected the deductibility of bad debts which the appellant believed warranted to be written off.
The appeal centred on the identification and interpretation of provisions governing losses arising from bad debts which are deductable for income tax purposes.
The court reiterated that it was bound to apply plain language of a statute to give effect to the intention of the legislature. It went on to state that statutes are to be read as a whole in context, and, if possible the court is to give effect to every word of the statute.
The intention of the legislature was to devote the area of the provisions of the Income Tax Act, 2004 (ITA) covering sections 20 to 26 for purpose of providing guidance to tax payers like the appellant. In other words section 25(4) and 25(5) (a) of the ITA shows one gets the impression that in the preparations of its tax accounts to be assessed by the respondent, the appellant was given the opportunity to indicate therein, what debt claim had in the appellant's accounting, become a bad debt ripe for deduction by the respondent.
The court pointed out that the appellant did not discharge its evidential burden to prove that it complied with any one of the two options the appellant claimed to have complied with under section 25 (5) (a) of the ITA.
It was for the above mentioned reasons that the appeal was dismissed.
The appellant, a limited liability company dealing with the business of production and supply of natural gas, was involved in a tax dispute with the respondent.
The main issue for determination was whether or not the tribunal erred in upholding the board’s interpretation of s17 of the Income Tax Act (ITA) thereby agreeing with the disallowance by the respondent, of depreciation allowance sought to be deducted by the appellant from the income.
The court held that a person is entitled to depreciation allowance only upon meeting the two conditions stipulated in s17 of the ITA. The depreciable assets must be owned and employed in the production of the income in question.
The court stated that although the expenditure incurred in the production of the income from the business of natural resource prospecting, exploration and development shall be treated as if it were incurred in securing the acquisition of an asset, hence entitling the person to depreciation allowance on that asset, such an asset must have been in production of the income. The deduction of depreciation is based on capped life of the asset as from the first year of the production of the income.
In the result the appeal was dismissed as it was devoid of merit.
The issue was whether the eviction of the plaintiff from her house was a result of any wrongful and/or fraudulent order by the defendant.
The plaintiff's suit was founded on the tort of misfeasance in public office. The tort of misfeasance in public office had two forms, namely (i) cases where a public power was exercised for an improper purpose with the specific intention of injuring a person or persons, and (ii) cases where a public officer acted in the knowledge that he had no power to do the act complained of and that it would probably injure the claimant
The court held that the plaintiff had to prove that the first defendant exercised his power in execution of the decree in the matter for an improper purpose with the specific intention of causing injury to the plaintiff.
The plaintiff however, as held by the court, failed to discharge her burden of proof required of her that the first defendant made any wrongful or fraudulent order resulting into evection of the plaintiff from her house in execution of a decree in case. Simply stated, the evidence led by the plaintiff was too insufficient to discharge a burden of proof on the tort of misfeasance in public office.
In the result, the plaintiff's evidence alleging fraudulent acts fell short of the standard required and the suit was dismissed.
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.
The plaintiffs instituted a land suit against the defendant praying the court declare that the defendant wrongly demolished the Madrassa building without any authority or order from the authorities. On the other side the defendant filed a written statement of defence stating that the suit was bad in law and ought to be dismissed, for lack of a paragraph invoking the court’s original jurisdiction, contrary to a requirement in law. Additionally, the defendant stated that the monetary claim pleaded was based on general damages and the court had no jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
The main issue determined by the court was whether the court had pecuniary jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
The court held that it was a mandatory requirement under Order VII Rule 1 (j) of the Civil Procedure Code that a plaint should contain a statement on the monetary value of the subject matter. This was not only for the purposes of determining courts' pecuniary jurisdiction, but also for assessing the court fees. Therefore, the failure by the plaintiffs to indicate in the plaint a statement of the value of the subject matter of the suit had an effect on both the jurisdiction and the court fees.
To conclude the court held that it had no jurisdiction and thus had no need to proceed on and to deliberate on other points of the preliminary objection as its hands were tied.
The applicant sought an order for a temporary injunction against the intended sale of a mortgaged property pending final disposal of a suit pending. The applicant's complaint was that his inability to service the loan was a result of the respondent's freezing of his account which made it impossible for him to perform his obligations under the credit facilities agreement.
The main issue was whether the applicant had established sufficient grounds to have the temporary injunction granted.
The court held that there were certain preconditions which a litigant had to meet before the court exercised its discretion to grant an application; for example demonstration that the applicant stood to suffer irreparable loss requiring the court’s intervention before the applicant’s legal right was established and proof of greater hardship and mischief suffered by the applicant if the injunction was not granted than the respondent will suffer if the order is granted.
The court also held that the conditions set out must all be met. Meeting one or two of the conditions will not be sufficient for the purpose of the court exercising its discretion to grant an injunction.
It is settled law that courts will only grant injunctions if there is evidence that there will be irreparable loss which cannot be adequately compensated by award of general damages. The court concluded that particulars of irreparable loss had not been given for the court's exercise of its discretion in the applicant's favour and so the application was dismissed.
The applicant filed an application for correction of arithmetical error from a consent settlement order. The respondent argued that a party seeking to have an arithmetical or clerical error corrected as it were in this application must do so within sixty days from the date of the decree sought to be corrected.
The question for determination by the court in this application was whether that power could be exercised at any time. To answer the question the court relied on the court of appeal judgment where it was held that "we are satisfied that the phrase 'at any time means just that at anytime' subject to the rights of the parties, there should be no point in limiting the time in which to correct such innocuous mistakes or errors which are merely clerical or arithmetical with absolutely no effect on the substance of the judgment. Hence if what was sought in Misc. Civil Application No. 57 of 1993 was merely to correct clerical or arithmetical mistakes arising from an accidental slip or omission; we agree that such correction can be made at any time subject to the rights of the parties”.
The court then concluded that the phrase ‘at any time’ was not be construed to extend beyond the period after a decree is fully satisfied.
The application was therefore dismissed.
The issues for determination were whether this suit was time barred and whether the suit was bad in law for being in contravention of s 6 (2) of the Government Proceedings Act [Cap.5 R.E. 2002].
Section 6(2) of the Government Proceedings Act states that ‘no suit against the government shall be instituted, and heard unless the claimant previously submits to the government minister, department or officer concerned a notice of not less than ninety days of his intention to sue the government, specifying the basis of his claim against the government, and he shall send a copy of his claim to the Attorney-General.’
The court held that in determining the question of limitation, two principles must be considered. In the first place, the court must look at the whole suit, including the reliefs sought, and see if the suit combines more than one claim based on different causes of action as one of them may be found to be time barred while the others may not. In such circumstances, it is not proper to dismiss the whole suit as time barred. Second, the court, in interpreting the provisions of a law, should read those provisions in their context as a whole. Single sections should not be read or interpreted in isolation.
The court found that the suit against the government, having been prematurely instituted before complying with the mandatory provisions of section 6 (2) of the Government Proceedings Act, was bad in law and incompetent. The suit was dismissed.
The plaintiff was a tenant in the defendant’s premises when the tenancy agreement was terminated by the defendant.
The main issue was whether the termination of the lease agreement between the parties was illegal because the plaintiff was not served with notice of termination of the lease agreement.
The court found that the plaintiff breached the terms and conditions of the lease agreement by failing to renew the lease agreement and defaulting on payment of the rent on time.
The court considered a clause of the parties' lease agreement, finding that the parties had agreed in their lease agreement that notices relating to their lease agreement would be served to each of them in various modes. One of those modes was service by hand to the last official address of the party. Since the clause did not state that the notice must be served to the party in person or physically but to be served through his last official address the court found that service to the last official place of business of the plaintiff could not be said to have failed to meet the agreement of the parties.
Therefore, since the plaintiff was a tenant in the premises where the notice was served as he was doing his business there it cannot be said he was not served with notice to terminate the lease agreement because the notice was served to him through his last official place of business.
The court decided in favour of the respondent.
The main question of contention was who the rightful owner of the land in the dispute was and whether the person who distributed the farms to the plaintiffs had authority to do so.
The court considered the evidence adduced before it by both sides in an attempt to prove who is the rightful owner of the land. The court observed that despite the fact that the plaintiffs in the matter at hand were 51, only two out of all the plaintiffs testified before the court.
The law as provided under section 110 (1) of the Evidence Act, Cap 11 R.E 2002 states that whoever desires any court to give judgment as to any legal right or liability dependent on the existence of facts which he asserts must prove that those facts exist. The court held that when the question is whether any person is owner of anything to which he is shown to be in possession, the burden of proving that he is not the owner is on the person who asserts that he is not the owner. Since the plaintiffs asserted in the plaint are the rightful owner of the land in dispute it was their duty to prove the first defendant is not the owner of the land.
In the result the plaintiffs were found to have failed to prove the claims they filed to court against the defendants. Consequently, the plaintiffs’ suit was dismissed.
The appellant claimed from the respondents jointly and severally for general damages for physical injuries he sustained after being involved in the accident caused by the motor vehicle owned by the first respondent and insured by the second respondent.
The issue was whether the magistrate erred in law and fact by considering false evidence tendered by the witness of the respondents.
The court held that the appellant did not state if it was all evidence tendered in court which was false or which part of it is false and was considered by the trial court’s magistrate and used in making the decision of the trial court.
The court noted that it had the duty as an appellate court to review the record of evidence of the trial court in order to determine whether the conclusion reached upon the evidence received by the trial court should stand. Though the court was in agreement with the appellant that motor vehicle insurance companies were statutorily duty bound to pay compensation to the victims of the accident caused by the motor vehicles of their clients but the compensation to be paid must be proved to the standard required by the law.
The court found that there was also no evidence tendered to the trial court to establish the appellant sustained permanent incapacity but he sustained temporary disability as indicated in the said exhibit.
The base of the suit was defamation whereby the plaintiff averred that the defendants defamed him.
The first issue was whether there was defamation and who was defamed among the two defendants. The court states that it is crucial in the commercial arena to inquire whether the published statement concerns the business itself or someone affiliated with the business in his individual capacity. Generally, the defamation must refer to the person defamed. In this case it had to be specifically pleaded whether the alleged defamation referred to the company business or to plaintiff witness individually.
For the second issue of whether the court had jurisdiction to hear the matter, it relied the principle contained in section 13 of the Civil Procedure Code that every suit must be instituted in the court of the lowest grade competent to try it. The object and purpose of the said provision is to prevent overcrowding in the court of higher grade where a suit may be filed in a court of lower grade; to avoid multifariousness of litigation and to ensure that case involving huge amount must be heard by a more experienced court. The suit should have been properly instituted either in the District Court or in the Court of the Resident Magistrate which have competent jurisdiction to try the same.
The court concluded that a cause of action arises when facts on which liability is founded exist of which there were none in this instance. Thus the suit was rejected.