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 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 applicant and respondent contested in a parliamentary election, the
respondent was aggrieved by the outcome of the election petitioned court
which dismissed the petition hence the appeal from which the application
arises. The applicant sought the notice of appeal struck out of court for being
filed out of time without leave of court.
This was a second appeal by the appellant
against the decision of the Court of Appeal
which ruled that terminal benefits paid to the
respondents were not taxable under Section 19
of the Income Tax Act. The background is that
the respondents were retrenched and awarded
terminal benefits for which they sought from
the appellant the tax due. The appellant
reviewed and presented a sum that was
contested by the respondents and the high court
ruled that the amount given to the former
employees was akin to gratuity which was tax
exempt. The court of appeal agreed with the
trial court hence this appeal.
The matter involved a dispute over the defendants’ refusal to release a certificate of title pursuant to an agreement to do so.
The first issue was whether the defendant was justified in not releasing the certificate of title belonging to the plaintiffs. The court observed that the defendant’s conduct in refusing to release the title created an impression of premeditated non-performance with the defendant only using the purported mala fides (bad faith) conduct as a farcical reason. The court thus concluded the defendants' conduct was unjustifiable.
The second issue was whether the conduct led to loss for the plaintiffs. Concerning whether there was loss of profits due to the plaintiffs being detracted from clearing their indebtedness the court found there was insufficient evidence to support it.Similarly, on the corresponding allegation that the conduct resulted in the incurring of interests due to another creditor, the court held that payment of interests had not been proved by the plaintiff. It thus denied the claim for both loss of profits and interest payments.
However, the court did accept that the actions of the defendant prevented them from discharging their indebtedness and thus resulted in the incurral of interest. It thus absolved the payment of the interests that arose within the affected period and consequently snuffed the corresponding counter-claimed interests for the period.
Regarding damages, the court reasoned that the plaintiffs had acted on the impression that the title would be released to enter into some arrangements which were frustrated by the defendants' unjustified conduct. It therefore granted general damages. Similarly, because of the defendants' oppressive and high-handed conduct, the court granted punitive damages.
In this case the appellant sought an order of Supreme Court extending the time within which to serve a notice of appeal. Counsel for the applicant lodged a notice of appeal well within the time prescribed by the law but the respondent’s counsel was served three days out of time. The applicant apportioned the blame for this delay on the staff of the Court of Appeal which, according to the applicant, failed to make available a signed notice of appeal on time.
The court considered the application for extension of the prescribed time in light of Rule 5 of the Rules of the Supreme Court. According to this rule, the court may grant such an extension if it finds sufficient reason to do so. The court found that the fact that the applicant promptly filed the notice of appeal demonstrated zeal on the applicant’s part. However, counsel for the applicant failed to demonstrate that the court staff caused the delay and did not explain why it took nearly four months to file the application for extension before the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, the court found that refusing the application would amount to denying the applicant’s right to present and prosecute his appeal and would have disproportionately negative consequences on the applicant. The court, therefore, used its discretionary powers to grant the extension sought, thereby validating the notice of appeal and the appeal itself.
The court concerned whether the goods seized by the defendants were all released pursuant to a consent to judgment being signed, and payment being fulfilled.
The plaintiff instituted action against the defendants for a declaration that they had breach a consent order. The defendants, without the plaintiff being present, entered a warehouse and seized a substantial number of goods.
A consent to judgment was entered into, wherein it was alleged that the defendant had breached the consent by not releasing all the goods. The plaintiff sought recovery of the goods and said that the seizure was unlawful.
The court found that the test to be applied is as follows: 1) whether all goods were released? 2) If not, what is the value of the goods not released and the potential remedies available?
The court found that the burden of proof lies on the party who asserts that the truth of the issue is in dispute. When that party adduces evidence, which is sufficient to raise a presumption that what he alleges is true, the burden of proof shifts to the other party to counter allege and produce evidence to rebut the presumption.
The court found that a substantial portion of the goods were not released as a result of the defendant being overburdened in their workforce, which deprived the plaintiff from use of the proceeds of the goods. Therefore, the plaintiff should be compensated for the economic inconvenience and awarded general damages.
The plaintiff tried to claim exemplary damages for breach of consent to judgment, however this was denied as it was not proven that the conduct of the defendants amounted to oppressive, arbitrary or unconstitutional behaviour.
In 2009, the appellants brought an action
before the High Court on behalf of former
employees of National Sugar Works Ltd,
alleging unlawful termination of their services.
The respondents raised a preliminary objection
claiming that the suit was time barred. This
claim was dismissed by the High Court but
accepted in second instance by the Court of
Appeal. Being dissatisfied with the decision of
the Court of Appeal, the appellants filed a
further appeal before the Supreme Court. The
appellants argued that their suit against the
respondents was not time barred because they
were under disability due to war and rebel
This case concerns the award of damages, or not, to compensate for the negative consequences of the respondent’s repudiation of a procurement contract. In the first instance, the trial court dismissed the suit with costs after finding that there was no contract between the parties. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court decision and awarded damages. The appellant, however, was dissatisfied with the quantum of damages awarded by the Court of Appeal and filed a further appeal to the Supreme Court, seeking damages for lost profits in addition to general damages. The respondent filed a cross-appeal proposing that the appellant’s appeal be dismissed, the decision of the Court of Appeal be reversed in part and the High court judgment and orders be restored. The respondent argued that no valid contract was entered into by the parties.
The court first considered whether there was a valid contract entered into between or executed between the parties under the 2003 PPDA Act and Regulations. PPDA section 76(3) requires that formal contracts be in writing. This requirement was not fulfilled. Consequently, no binding obligation arose out of the letter of bid acceptance. The court, therefore, dismissed the appeal filed by the appellant.
In this appeal, the first respondent filed a suit in the lower court against the appellants claiming damages for trespass on his access road and a permanent injunction from blocking the access road. Court awarded him damages and in enforcing it a warrant of attachment was issued of the appellants’ property with his school properties. The same was purchased by the second respondent by auction despite the attempt to block the sale. The grounds of appeal are premised on failure to evaluate evidence and to nullify the illegal sale.
The respondent successfully brought a suit against the appellants for
declaration that she was the rightful owner of the suit land, vacant
possession, permanent injunction and damages. The appellants were
dissatisfied with the judgment of the trial court hence this appeal.
The court considered the issue of jurisdiction and whether the court had jurisdiction to hear the matter based on a contract which was concluded to be governed under Dutch law.
The defendants breached their contract as a result of not being able to fulfil their obligations in terms of the contract, and subsequently they unilaterally terminated the contracts.
The defendant contended that the application should be dismissed as the court does not have jurisdiction to hear the suit.
The court found that where parties have bound themselves to an exclusive jurisdiction clause, they ought to comply with that obligation, unless the party who is suing outside the scope of the prescribed jurisdiction gives adequate justification for doing so.
The court found that in order to dispute a jurisdiction, you have to show that the intention was to evade the operation of the provision in the relevant law, and that there was an element of fraud or duress or other evidence of mala fides (meaning an act done in bad faith). If these elements cannot be proved, then the selected forum will be upheld.
The court held that the contract was drawn and executed in Uganda, the plaintiffs reside in Uganda and if the matter was heard in a different jurisdiction the cost of housing, transporting and feeding a number of witnesses, including cost of counsel in a different jurisdiction would be nonsensical and would deny the defendants access to court.
The court found that the expertise of courts in Uganda are competent to deal with the matter, and as a result they had the required jurisdiction to entertain the matter.
Application is denied.
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 sought a declaration that it was the lawful owner of a piece of land in dispute, and that the respondent has been a trespasser. The respondent filed seeking to strike out the appellant’s suit for being time-barred. The trial judge allowed the application. The appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal against the dismissal. The Court of Appeal found no merit in the appeal and dismissed the same, hence this appeal.
The issue for determination for the appeal was whether the appellant could appeal to the Court of Appeal against the order of the trial court without the leave of court.
The court applied the principle that if the decision conclusively determines the rights of the parties, then it would be a decree; otherwise it would be an order. If for instance portions of a plaint are struck out as being frivolous, or if a suit is stayed, such a decision would be an order, whereas if a suit is dismissed with costs, that would be a decree. A decree is appealable as of right, whereas under the Civil Procedure Rules most orders are only appealable with leave of the court.
In applying the principle, the court found that the High Court decision disposed of the suit conclusively and the decision was therefore a decree within the meaning of s 2(c) of the Civil Procedure Act, even though it was worded as an order. It held that the appellant therefore had a right of appeal as against the decision and did not need to apply for leave to appeal to the court of appeal.
The appeal succeeded.
The appellant sought a declaration against the respondent that the Constitutional Court erred in refusing to award the appellant costs as a successful party and that it also based that refusal to award costs on incorrect principles.
The reference on taxation can be made to the Supreme Court on two grounds namely; on a matter of law or principle or on the ground that the bill of costs as taxed is in all circumstances manifestly excessive or manifestly inadequate.
The court held that there was no principle of law to the effect that the decision of the taxing officer must be subjected to the application of a ‘magic formula’ which when applied would result in a precise figure being arrived at in an almost automatic manner. Every case must be decided on its own merits and its peculiar circumstances, such as prolixity of the case in its preparation and any other peculiar complications in its presentation to the court.
The court held that, due to the difference in cases, uniformity and consistency may at times be defeated. Moreover, other factors ought to be considered by the taxing master. The fund or person bearing the costs must be considered before setting the award. A balance has to be struck between keeping the costs of litigation as reasonable as possible so as not to restrict access to court to only the wealthy, and the need to allow reasonable level of remuneration of advocates to attract worthy recruits to the profession.
In the result, the application was upheld.
The appellant applied to the supreme court seeking an enlargement time within which he should have filed his notice of appeal against the decision of the court of appeal.
The issues were whether leave to appeal could be granted to the applicant and serve the notice of appeal out of time and whether the applicant had ‘sufficient cause’ for not having been able to bring the appeal within time.
The court noted that it had the discretion to extend and validate pleadings even where there were limits created by statute. The court held that ‘sufficient reason’ must relate to the ability or failure to take particular step in time. It observed that the rule envisaged scenarios in which extension of time for doing an act so authorised or required would be granted namely: before the expiration of a limited time, after the expiration of a limited time, before an act is done and after an act is done.
The court also noted that the appellant was not to be prejudiced since the machinery which formed the core subject of the dispute between the two parties was still in possession. In the result, the court was satisfied that the appellant had established sufficient reasons for having failed to apply on time.
The appeal succeeded.
The appellant appealed against a taxing officer’s order awarding the second respondent costs of 1, 900, 739/= contending that the instruction fee awarded was based on an incorrect value of the suit. The respondents’ counsel raised preliminary objections inter alia that couldn’t be permitted to raise a new point of law that was not argued in the lower court.
The court considered a review application arising from an application surrounding a facilitation agreement between the parties.
A receiver was appointed and it was alleged that there was a conflict of interest. The first respondent was appointed, but the directors refused to hand over the management of the company. An order was sought, to declare the duties and functions of the receiver.
The court held that it was the receiver’s duty to make returns and accounts, to uphold his fiduciary duty to the company and investigate the causes of the company’s failure. Therefore, the receiver was expected to take charge of the business.
It was found that there was nothing prohibiting the appointment of a receiver from the same firm representing the creditor. The applicant argued that it was an error on the face of it to appoint the advocate of the second respondent as the Receiver as it was a conflict of interest.
The court found that an error on the face of it must be an error on a substantial point of law staring one in the face, leaving one with no other options. Whereas, an error which has to be established by a process of reasoning, cannot be said to be an error on the face of the record.
The court found that the applicant was asking the court to review something that was never an issue in the original application.
The court held that to bring an application for review on a prayer which did not form part of the original application is improper and would cause an injustice.
The appellant claimed that he was a partner in a business with the respondent. When the partnership dissolved and the proceeds were shared; the appellant was allegedly not given anything. He then sued the respondent for a declaration that he was a partner and was entitled to the proceeds. The High Court dismissed these claims.
The appellant appealed the judgment of the High Court five months after the judgment had been handed down. He further lodged an application for extension of time to file a notice of appeal. The court below dismissed this application because of inordinate delay.
The appellant appealed to this court. The appellant’s complaint was that the application was dismissed on the basis of technicalities and not substantive justice and this is in contravention of the Constitution. In response, the respondent submitted that the appeal lacks merit.
This court found that the continuation of the proceedings in question would greatly prejudice the respondent. This is because the respondent was holding a decree from the High Court since 1995 which decree the appellant has stubbornly refused to satisfy to date. Accordingly, this application was dismissed.
This is an application to annul the consent order that was executed between the respondents and the cancellation of the third respondent’s title. The appeal was issued by the registrar against the decision of a judge who dismissed an application by the first respondent against the second and third respondents. The appeal is premised on grounds that the registrar had no jurisdiction not issue the orders and the consent is illegal.
The matter involved a claim by the applicant against the defendant’s conduct of unlawfully blocking and deducting monies from his salary account.
First, was whether the court, as a commercial division, had jurisdiction over the matter. The court reasoned that as it dealt with crediting and debiting of the applicant’s account, the matter therefore lay in the ambit of a banker customer relationship. The court was therefore had jurisdiction as it was a commercial matter.
Next, was whether the applicant’s account had been unlawfully deducted and consequently who was liable, considering that the defendant had assumed the obligations of Crane Bank, the applicant’s original employer. The court found there was evidence that the applicant’s account had been credited with less money than he was earning for some time.
On the issue of liability, the court reasoned that despite the contractual exemption of liability upon assumption of Crane’s obligations by the defendant, the Employment Act required the employment obligations to transfer to the defendant as a matter of law. The effect was that the defendant was liable for the unlawful deductions.
Finally, the court dealt with the question of damages. The court used its discretion to put the plaintiff in the position he would have been but for the wrong, as required by law. The court, using its discretion, also awarded interest to the applicant on the basis that applicant had been deprived from own monies. It however denied the claim for exemplary damages as it could not establish malice, outrage or impunity in the conduct of the defendant.
Civil Procedure — Limitation of actions — Disability as legal incapacity — Disability as inability — suit for failure of government in its constitutional duty and undertaking to provide security by way of armed escorts during the plaintiff's execution of road construction — Action statute barred.