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 appeal stemmed from the denial of the appellant's right to defend on merits due to the lower court’s grant of an Order 14 summary judgement in favor of the respondent, without properly engaging with the merits of the matter.
Substantively, the court held that in a summary judgement application the plaintiff must bring a prima facie case for the claim, which includes showing the basis of the claim, before the burden shifts to the defendant to defend. However, a complete defence is not required but rather the defendant only needs to show that he has a reasonable defence to the claim and his defence is not a sham or intended to delay payment.
Since the respondent’s claim had been based on an agreement and an alleged assignment, the court reasoned that on assessment of the evidence the argument of assignment lacked the element of intent and thus could not stand. Further, the argument that the respondent was a beneficiary of the agreement in question was unfounded. The trial court therefore erred in its decision to grant summary judgment as the very basis of the claim was reasonably challenged on the facts.
The court thus concluded that the appellant had been unjustifiably been shut out of trial. It thus allowed the appeal setting aside the summary judgement.
In this appeal, court determined whether the representations made by the respondents in their letter of 3rd October 2013 constituted promissory estoppels with regard to the auction that took place on 30th September 2013. The court noted that the principle of promissory estoppel relates to representations of future conduct and not past conduct and held that the principle was not applicable to the facts of the case. The court also determined whether the application was made out of time. The court applied the rule in Order 45 rule 10(1) of the High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2004: that such an application should be made 21 days from the date of the sale. The appellant made the application on 8th November 2013 while the auction took place on the 30th September 2013. The court held that the application was incompetent since it was made out of time. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed and the judgment of the court of appeal was affirmed.
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.
In this appeal, the court considered whether the Court of Appeal had erred in upholding the respondent’s writ as per established rules. The court observed that the validity of the writ affected the jurisdiction of the trial court. The court held that the writ was competent since the court had to decide who had a better title to the property.
The court also considered whether there were legitimate grounds for the Court of Appeal to reverse the decision of the trial court on the disputed questions of fact. The court held that the Court of Appeal was right to intervene in order to make a judicial correction, based on the record of appeal, since the conduct of the 1st appellant was fraudulent. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed, the decision of the Court of Appeal affirmed and the respondent’s right to injunctive reliefs succeeded.
One of the judges expounded on the whether the Court of Appeal exceeded its jurisdiction by questioning an order of a public tribunal. The judge noted that the writ was made by appointees of the tribunal not the tribunal and could be questioned by the court.
The application was lodged as a response by the applicants (General Legal Council) to a decision of the Court of Appeal setting aside orders granted to them allowing for the suspension of the respondent from legal practice. The applicants sought leave to appeal against this decision.
In response, the court began its adjudication from the position that a special leave application is not concerned with substantive issues but rather with whether it satisfies the case law principles that there must either be (a) a prima facie error on the face of the record, or (b) a general legal principle arising for the first time, and or (c) that the Supreme Court decision on the appeal would be advantageous to the public.
The court assessed the grounds propounded by the applicants which in essence included allegations of fundamental errors that go to jurisdiction and which a determination by the Supreme Court would be advantageous to the public. The court reasoned that these issues were so important that a decision on them would have a public good. It therefore decided to allow the application.
The court was confronted with a question of liability for undelivered goods by the driver of a haulage company contracted by the plaintiff. The meat of the enquiry focused on the issue of the effect of a failure to sign the delivery note on bailment. Having assessed the understanding and intentions of the parties the court reasoned delivery occurred at the moment of loading by the supplier, upon which liability passed to the carrier. The issue of the signing of the note or lack of by the driver thus bore no significance on the question of liability. Only sufficient reasons for failure to adduce the signature and evidence of collusive fraud by defendant would commute the carrier’s responsibility. Consequently, a claim of contributory negligence could not stand once loading had been made by the supplier as they did not have an express duty of care to ensure signing of the notes. Moreover, the mere loading was in itself delivery thus the plaintiff failed to demonstrate negligence.
Finally, the court dealt with the question of whether a contract actually existed between the parties as this had an effect on surcharges deducted by the defendant. The court found that given the nature of the contracts involved, the defendant had no contractual relationship with the plaintiff and therefore could not sue on the surcharge agreement as they were not party to the contract made for their benefit.
The court thus dismissed the appeal.
This case concerned whether the Supreme Court had the authority to quash a judgment handed down by the court below. The applicant contended that the court below lacked jurisdiction to interpret articles 127 (3) and 161 of the 1992 Constitution. The court considered the difference between interpreting a constitutional provision and applying a constitutional provision. It was found that all courts and adjudicating authorities are obliged to apply the provisions of the Constitution. Therefore, it would be a denial of justice to parties if constitutional provisions are not considered by a court of law or any adjudicating authority. Furthermore, it is only when the issue of interpretation arises that a court must stay its proceedings and refer the matter to the Supreme Court. In this matter, the court below was not called upon to interpret any provisions of the Constitution but merely to ascertain where the Registrar was a holder of a judicial office and whether the holder of a judicial officer had judicial power. The court found that Article 161 of the Constitution did not define judicial power. Therefore, not all judicial officers exercise judicial power. The court found that the court below had not committed and error that destroyed its jurisdiction, thus there was nothing warranting the Supreme Court to be called upon to quash the judgment handed down by the court below. Application dismissed.
This case concerned the reversal of a judgment handed down in this court by a single judge in terms of article 134(b) of the 1992 Constitution. Furthermore, the order handed down was non-executable and that the court erred in ordering the suspension of a non-executable order. Article 134 (b) prescribes what a three-judge panel may do after hearing an application brought by a party who is aggrieved with the decision of a single judge. The court considered whether a three-judge panel should apply the conditions applicable by an appeal or a review or a combination of the two. It was found that an application of this nature couldn’t be treated as an appeal since the full record of appeal will not have been placed before the court. It was therefore found that it should be treated as a special review, considering all factors and merits of the case. Therefore, all rules on review should largely apply. The court found that where there is no executable order from the decision of the court below, this court cannot make an order to stay execution. The court found that the decision by the single judge did not disclose what factors were taken into consideration to enable him to conclude that it was fair to grant the application. Thus, the record did not disclose any special circumstances. Application granted.
The plaintiff sought a writ (being a written order of the court to abstain from acting) against the defendants. The plaintiff asked the court to find that the court below did not have jurisdiction to determine matters involving the interpretation and enforcement of the Constitution. The defendants in turn raised a preliminary objection to the plaintiff’s writ.
This case considered the preliminary objection raised in objection to the writ and whether the court had jurisdiction to entertain the plaintiffs action calling for a writ against the defendants, thus did the plaintiff properly invoke the jurisdiction of the court and whether the proper parties were before the court.
The court found that in determining whether its jurisdiction had been properly invoked, they were obliged to look at the preliminary objection of the writ before them.
The plaintiff argued that a single judge lacked the jurisdiction to determine matters involving the interpretation and or enforcement of the Constitution.
The court found that its jurisdiction had been properly invoked. On the second issue the court found that the Plaintiff had capacity to bring the application before this court.
The court found that the first defendant was properly cited and was a party in this application, however the second defendant was not a party to the action as the plaintiff did not show any act or omission which would justify the plaintiff citing him.
The second defendant was therefore struck out.
Preliminary objection overruled.
This case concerned the difference between a claim for special and general damages. The court found that damages is a method by which courts offer monetary reparation to persons whose rights in contract law have been violated, as a means to restore them to the situation in which they would have been but for the violation. Thus, damages play an invaluable role in the capacity of courts to give solatium (compensation or consolation) to the parties. Therefore, the claim for damages will be premised on the cause or causes of the violation and the consequences attached. The court found that in order to succeed with a claim for damages the plaintiff must satisfy the court with credible proof that there has been a breach, giving rise to the cause of action.
The plaintiff claimed loss of labour, unrefunded deposits and administrative expenses in its claim for damages, constituting special damages. While general damages are presumed by the law from the invasion of a right, special damages refer to the particular damage suffered by a party beyond that presumed by law from the mere fact of an invasion of a right and must be proved strictly by evidence. Thus, if a plaintiff does not specifically plead his loss and prove it, he cannot succeed in a claim for special damages.
The appeal succeeds in part.
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 Financial Intelligence Centre applied to the High Court to freeze the assets of the applicants who were being investigated for trafficking narcotic drugs. The applicant contended that the High Court exceeded its jurisdiction when it dismissed an application to dismiss the freezing of assets, because the law provided that this must be done for one year only; however in this case a year had since lapsed. It was also contended that the High Court had exceeded its jurisdiction to impose directions on how the case should be tried, and more broadly that the freezing of the account was in breach of the rules of natural justice.
The court held that the High Court acted contrary to the law when it did not exercise its jurisdiction to defreeze the assets, as the courts have supervisory jurisdiction. A year had lapsed and hence it was an error of law to not grant the order to defreeze the assets. The court which has supervisory jurisdiction has the power to defreeze assets if the one-year period has lapsed.
The case related to a declaration of title of a piece of land that was in dispute because both parties claimed ownership.
The court highlighted an appeal seeking to overturn a lower court’s decision must show that the court’s decision was wrong in law, did not take into consideration evidence or made findings in the absence of evidence. In essence a trial court decision can be overturn if it was not based on well-founded reasoning.
Further when suing on behalf a group of people, the party must clearly indicate so and failure to do so may affect that parties’ legal right to sue. Once you have indicated in what capacity you’re instituting a claim, you cannot subsequently change this.
The court in this case upheld and allowed the appeal because the Court of Appeal permitted the appeal that was not based on evidence before it. Further it was a fatality for the defendants to endorse their counterclaim by indicting they were doing so in a representative capacity.
The court considered an application by way of notice on motion for an interlocutory injunction restraining the respondents from enforcing the National Media Regulations pending the court’s determination of the substantive suit. The substantive suit related to declarations that the requirement for prior authorization of consent as well as the criminal sanctions were contrary to the Constitution.
The court confirmed that whereas in public law, a court ought to be slow in granting interlocutory injunction, it still has the power to grant one. This is especially so in exceptional cases where there is a need to restrain enforcement of legislation that is being challenged on substantial grounds. The courts will grant an injunction to avoid irreparable injury being caused by the enforcement of a potentially unconstitutional piece of legislation that is being challenged. On this basis, the application was granted.
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 case related to a petroleum agreement between the Ghanaian government and a Norwegian company. The agreement was ratified by Parliament, but the Minister of Energy thereafter refused the company’s assignment of their Petroleum Agreement to its wholly owned local subsidiary. The question was whether Parliament’s permission is required to terminate a resource exploitation transaction, as they ratify it. The rationale for ratification is for transparency, openness and participation in matters involving natural resources but the exercise of checks and balances does not extend to approving termination of agreements that the executive has jurisdiction over. The court held that whereas Parliament ratified these agreements, the act remains an act of the executive and Parliament’s approval is not needed to terminate the agreement.
The dispute related to dishonored cheques that were issued for payment of supplies. After several cheques were dishonored, the respondents went to the premises of the appellant to recover the remaining products. The trial court award general, special and nominal damages. However, the Court of Appeal reduced the general damages. They also held that nominal damages should not be awarded when there was a failure to prove special damages.
The court dealt with three issues relating to a potential error of law when the Court of Appeal substituted their judgment for that of the trial High Court, failure by the Court of Appeal to exercise their discretion judicially and issuing a judgment against the weight of evidence.
The Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeal could not set aside the trial High Court decision when there was no appeal against the relief granted by the High Court or challenge against the findings made. The Court of Appeal can only set aside aspects of the judgment that have been appeal against. The Court of Appeal can only reverse a trial court if the trial court made orders that were oppressive, excessive or contrary to the law.
The court was called upon to determine who was entitled to ownership and possession of property in dispute between two purchasers. One purchaser claimed the property because they executed a writ of fieri facias (writ of fifa) attaching the property to recover a debt but this was not executed. A writ of fifa is a document issued by the court for the purpose of enforcing a judgment debt by permitting a judgment debtor to have a legal right to seize the losing party’s property to recover the amount due to them
Sometime later another party attended an auction, another purchaser purchased the same piece of property.
The court held that the sale at the auction was illegal because of the principle of nemo dat which provides that the first person to get title is entitled to that property notwithstanding any subsequent sale. Therefore even though the writ of fifa has expired, the party who got judgment get title to the property as judgment debtor.
Litigation was commenced to recover a debt from a company incorporated in Australia that was wholly owned by a Ghanaian company. The High Court granted judgment in favour of the appellant for the amount due. The judgment was appealed because the respondent proposed a scheme of arrangement to reorganise their debts with their creditors. but the appellant subsequently the appellant filed a petition to liquidate the company as it was unable to pay off its debts. The court granted to wind up the company. However, the Court of Appeal granted a stay of execution of the winding-up before the respondent appealed the original decision of the High court to pay the amount due.
The appellant did not succeed with the appeal because they did not prove that the Court of Appeal failed to take relevant matters into consideration, considered irrelevant matters of misapplied the law.
The Supreme Court was called upon to interpret the Constitution to deduce if the Attorney General can represent the Registrar of the High Court in litigation. The court held that because the Attorney General acts on behalf of the state, the Attorney General has the power to represent public officers who are appointed by the President and approved by Parliament. Whereas public officials can choose to be represented by counsel of their own choice, they may refer their cases to the Attorney-General.
However, where representation by the Attorney General compromises the independence of the judiciary or there is a conflict of interest situation, the Attorney-General cannot represent a judicial officer.
In this case there was no evidence the independence of the judiciary was not at risk and the Attorney General could represent him.
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 plaintiff claimed ownership of a property because he was the sub-lessee of the property and the true owner did not come forward to claim it. The defendant holds the title deeds to the property but the plaintiff continued to argue that he was not the true owner.
The court held that the defendant leased the property to a third party who thereafter sub-leased the property to the plaintiff. As a result the plaintiff could not claim to be owner in possession because he was not truly owner in possession. The defendant satisfied the court and discharged the burden of proving they own the property.
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.
The court considered an application for a declaration on how to interpret an order made by the Supreme Court on the subject of a register of voters. The court provided that a party can apply to clarify a previous decision of the court to make it easier to understand, especially in cases where part of the judgment is ambiguous. The court has inherent jurisdiction to clarify a judgment, but such clarification cannot be used to make a substantive change to the existing decision. An application to clarify a judgment cannot be used to ask the court make the same order again as this would amount to suing a party again for the same cause.
The court in this case clarified the issue of what was meant by ‘delete’ names from the register of voters, but refused to clarify the judgment to the extent that would amount to modifying or altering the substance of the judgment.
The matter involved a dispute concerning the nature and validity of the transaction between the defendant, a government-owned limited liability company, and Karpower. The matter revolved around the interpretation given to the phrase ‘international transaction’ in article 181 of the Constitution, a phrase whose effect is that the transaction required parliamentary approval.
The first question that faced the court concerned jurisdiction. The court relied on ample case law to arrive at the position that the Supreme Court is not a clearing house to assume jurisdiction which otherwise belongs to other lower courts. It noted that jurisdiction would only be exercised where it is manifestly clear and obvious that the cases are deserving.
Substantively, the court then had to consider the legal nature of the defendants in order to ascertain whether they were the alter ego of the government. After scrutinising the relevant transactions, the court reasoned that it was clear that the defendants, as juristic persons, had the capacity to enter into the transactions they entered into with the relevant institutions without seeking parliamentary approval as stipulated in article 181 (5) of the Constitution.
The court concluded that given the established interpretation of ‘international transaction’ and the legal nature of the defendants, the nature of transaction between the first defendants and Karpowership does not constitute an international business transaction with a government. It therefore did not require compliance with article 181 (5) of the Constitution.
The court dismissed the application.
The applicant commenced litigation but it was soon discovered that his legal representative did not have a valid solicitor’s licence. In an earlier Supreme Court decision in the same matter (Korboe v Amosa (J4/56/2014) GHASC 10 (21 April 2016) it was held that a lawyer cannot practice law for as long as they do not have a licence, and any process to commence court proceedings are null and void. The applicant prayed for review of that judgment because it caused injustice and there is no requirement that a person engaging or consulting a lawyer must be satisfied that he must have a valid licence. The court reiterated that Supreme Court decisions can only be reviewed if there are exceptional circumstances or there is critical evidence that was not available at the time of the appeal and not reasonably discovered. In other words, there should have been an error of law on the part of the court. In this case, the court held that even though the applicant was not aware of the lawyer not having a licence and the law doesn’t require him to inquire, the fact that the lawyer endorses the writ and court process renders it legally incomplete and null. It was held that the applicant failed to show an error of law or miscarriage of justice.
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.
This was a dispute about interpretation of an employment contract. An employee of a church was entitled by virtue of that contract to long service leave, calculated with reference to his ‘basic salary’. The issue was to determine the meaning and scope of the words ‘basic salary’.
The Supreme Court of Justice held that while the lower courts correctly identified this issue, they had incorrectly found that ‘basic salary’ meant the total annual salary that the plaintiff was drawing at the time. The lower courts did not give consideration to the meaning and effect of the term ‘basic salary’ in the ‘conditions of service’ document, which defined ‘basic salary’ as a lower baseline salary amount.
The court held that in dealing with the interpretation of contracts the literal and plain meaning rule must always be applied within the context of the deed being construed and not standing by itself alone. Additionally, the court has a duty to give effect to the intentions of the parties. This being an employment contract, the proper approach of interpretation is to construe the words within the context of the whole document having in mind the scope and object of the document. Interpretations which would ‘render the meaning absurd, incongruous, unreasonable or unintelligible, or that will create hardship or inconvenience’ should be rejected.
The court held that in the context of the document as a whole, and it would be ‘unreasonable and absurd’ to conclude that the intention was to bind the defendant to a meaning of ‘basic salary’ that encompassed the plaintiff’s actual annual salary.
The appeal succeeded in part; the judgments of the High Court and Court of Appeal were set aside.
In this case the appellant sought a reversal of an order made by the Court of Appeal overturning the lower court’s judgement. The appellant argued that the Court of Appeal had no authority to consider the appeal, because it was improperly constituted as it was filed out of time.
The Supreme Court considered whether the Court of Appeal (a) had jurisdiction over the matter despite the delayed filing of the appeal and (b) whether the appeal had merit to succeed.
The Supreme Court held that time limitations can be extended under certain circumstances and at the discretion of the court. In this case, however, the defendant (applicant before the Court of Appeal) did not provide any reasons for his delay nor a defence to the claim that the appeal was filed late. Consequently, the Court of Appeal had no jurisdiction to determine the merits of the appeal. The Supreme Court set the judgement aside and restored the High Court judgement.