Latest Articles

The claim in R B v Smith was based on an alleged failure by a surgeon (who performed a laparoscopic hernia repair on the appellant) to provide the appellant with sufficient information to enable her to give informed consent for the surgery which resulted in colon perforation. There was no negligence on the surgeon’s part in performing the laparoscopy (where the operation could have been done by laparotomy). The only remaining issue was consent. On the…
English law relating to professional negligence draws an interesting distinction between whether the professional person is giving information or giving advice. This is not specifically part of South African law but it is relevant when considering liability, for instance, of brokers under the FAIS Act. The difference is between providing information for the purpose of enabling someone to decide on a course of action, and advising someone as to what course of action to take.…
A recent academic article by Dr Rika van Zyl argues persuasively that, where there is a contract for the benefit of a third party, the third party accepts the benefit of the contract between the other two parties and not to become a party to the contract. In drafting such contracts you must make sure the contract spells out clearly the intention, namely: whether the third party accepts the benefit or actually becomes a party to…
England’s highest court finally, after over four centuries of reported decisions on the issue, definitively held that the burden of proof lies on the carrier where cargo owners sue a ship owner for loss or damage to cargo. If the carrier could and should have taken precautions which would have prevented some inherent characteristic of the cargo from resulting in damage, that characteristic is not inherent vice. Accordingly, in order to be able to rely…
Extraordinarily, a case involving a passenger opening a car door and scratching a neighbouring vehicle in a supermarket carpark led to a decision before the Court of Justice of the European Union. Europe’s highest court found that this is ‘use of vehicles’ for the purposes of motor vehicle insurance. The event happened in Latvia where the claim was rejected on the basis that the liability was not one that had to be covered by a…
Under the business judgment rule, a director or officer may be excused from conduct which has adverse circumstances for the company if their judgment, albeit poor judgment, was exercised in good faith and in the interests of the company. In an action in Delaware, USA, the CEO was denied this assistance by the court because, faced with job uncertainty, he put his own interests above those of shareholders. The court refused to dismiss the fiduciary…
Where the purchase price of imported sugar included the import duty and the purchase price had to be reduced if the duty was reduced, the persistent claim by the seller for the unreduced amount was a repudiation and led to the lawful cancellation of the sugar contract. Payment of the sugar contract was to be made against invoice. The invoice would be rendered on delivery and payment would become due on delivery. The purchaser informed…
Where the purchaser of an oil refinery sued the seller for breach of contract for $25 million damages resulting from a fire caused by various acts and omissions of the seller prior to the sale, the claim was not covered under the seller’s commercial general liability policy. The claim was not based on property damage but on damages arising from false representations and the failure to deliver what was bargained for. The typical liability policy covered…
The Supreme Court of Appeal has reaffirmed the principle that where a party alleges that a compromise (settlement) has been effected in an exchange of correspondence it must be proved that the offer of compromise was accepted. The acceptance must be absolute, unconditional and identical with the offer. Otherwise there is no consensus and no settlement. A settlement agreement is a form of contract and must comply with all general contractual requirements as regards consensus,…
The Supreme Court of Appeal has yet again reaffirmed the principles dealing with the interpretation of contracts. Interpretation of contracts is a unitary exercise which starts with the text to be interpreted and considers it within the contract as a whole, and in context. It requires consideration of text, context and purpose of the contract. The considerations include the nature, formality and quality of the drafting of the contract. The words in a document must…