Your Dog, Cat or Cow (Even Your Bees) Could Cost You Millions

Legal
Our law will generally hold you liable for damages only if someone else can prove that you caused them loss/damage/injury through your “fault” (intent or negligence). That seems fair and logical – if it’s your fault, you pay. If however the loss was caused by your animal/s, you are in a much more dangerous position – you can be sued on a “no fault” or “strict liability” basis – and that’s a sobering prospect. It means that bad behaviour by Maxie the Mongrel, Skollie the Cat, Daisy the Cow, or even (per an old 1926 case) your “domesticated” swarm of bees, could leave you with a bill for millions without your being in any way careless or at fault. Ignorance of that risk is very definitely dangerous rather than bliss. A…
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Small Claims Courts – From 1 April You Can Sue For Up To R20,000

Legal
The monetary jurisdiction of Small Claims Courts has been increased from R15,000 to R20,000 from 1 April 2019. Not all claims can be pursued in a Small Claims Court – Claims over R20,000 must be pursued in the ordinary courts (you can if you like reduce a larger claim to the R20k to avoid having to do that). Only individuals can sue in a Small Claims Court, i.e. not companies, close corporations etc. The State and local authorities can only be sued in the ordinary courts. Other than those exclusions, you can sue anyone including companies and the like. Certain types of claim (such as divorce matters, some damages claims, interdicts, will disputes etc) must also go to the ordinary courts. Even if your claim qualifies for the Small Claims…
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Losing Your Licence with AARTO Demerits: More Danger than You Thought, and The Wheels are Turning

Legal
Government has “cried wolf” on the AARTO demerit system so many times now that many of us have lost sight of just how seriously it will affect us when it finally comes into force. Now the wheels of implementation are turning – fast. It’s time to prepare! The fact is that every motorist, every vehicle owner, every professional driver, every transport operator, indeed every employer, will be at risk. We discuss what demerit points are, how they are allocated and reduced, how and when your driver’s licence is at risk. AARTO (the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act) has been partially in force for years, but its demerit provisions have been on ice for so long now that many of us have lost sight of just how seriously it will…
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Neighbours Building? Know Your Rights Re Plan Approval

Legal
Disputes with neighbours take many forms, and they can quickly escalate into costly and expensive litigation. So nipping them in the bud will always be first prize, and when it comes to fights over construction activity – whether it be a whole new building or additions/alterations – a good place to start is with municipal approval of building plans. Without such approval, construction cannot as a general rule proceed. Imagine that your neighbours apply to the municipality for approval of building plans. You object strongly – if allowed, you say, the new building/addition/alteration will seriously impact on your property’s appeal and value. It will be unsightly and objectionable. It will ruin the neighbourhood. How must the municipality’s “decision makers” assess the plans in light of your concerns? A long-running legal…
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Traffic Fines and Admissions of Guilt – Will They Earn You a Criminal Record?

Legal
We live our lives beset by so many laws and regulations that even the most law-abiding of citizens will sooner or later be accused of some petty offence or other and then faced with the question “Do I fight this in court or do I just pay the fine and get on with it?” Tread carefully here – paying a fine and getting it over and done with is one thing – burdening yourself with a criminal record for life is an entirely different kettle of fish. We discuss the expungement option, when you are at risk of acquiring a criminal record and when you aren’t, and the story of the grass seller who turned to the High Court for help after his admission of guilt fine came back to…
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Trustees at War: The Removal Remedy and Its Limits

Legal
What happens when a trust’s trustees fall out and go to war with each other? If a polite request to the minority trustee to resign bears no fruit, can the majority forcibly remove him or her? And if so, must they have good reason to do so? The first question of course is what the founding trust deed provides for such a situation, but a recent High Court decision lays additional ground rules for trustees that anyone involved in a trust (in any capacity) should know about. The case saw a mother facing off against three professionals (two auditors and an attorney) and the latter’s attempt to replace the mother with another trustee ran into troubled waters. The case When family infighting impacts a family trust, an early casualty is…
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When Should You Sue Rogue Employees? A R33m Example

Legal
Employers, ever mindful of the comprehensive legal rights and protections provided to employees by our labour laws, need to know that on the other side of the coin they too have rights, and that our courts will come to their aid where employee misconduct causes them loss. We discuss your employees’ obligations to you in the context of a recent High Court case involving a trusteed employee who, over a four year period, ran a R33m scheme to enrich himself at his employer’s expense. The case Employees have very strong rights in our law, but employers also have effective remedies when employees “go rogue”. A recent case of Sime Darby Hudson and Knight (Pty) Ltd v Lerena (9293/2013) [2018] ZAWCHC 94; (2018) 39 ILJ 2413 (WCC); [2018] 4 All SA 446 (WCC) , in…
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Property Buyers: Beware Unlawful Occupiers!

Legal
If you plan to buy a house before the property market starts to recover from its present doldrums, be aware of the risks you face if anyone is currently in the property. A recent High Court decision of Pure Capital Property Trading CC v Hanslo and Others (15217/2018) [2018] ZAWCHC 137  illustrates the danger of your being unable to evict unwelcome occupiers who point-blank refuse to leave. We’ll analyse that decision, and the lessons to be learned from it, after summarising the two things that PIE (the Prevention of Illegal Eviction From and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act) requires you to prove before a court will grant you an eviction order. We’ll end off with some practical advice on how to avoid this sort of problem in the first place. The case You…
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Property Owners, Buyers and Agents: Check for the Title Deeds Before 25 February!

Legal
The last thing you want in any property transfer is any more delay and cost than is already built into the process.  Unhappily, that is exactly what is in store if the property’s original title deed is for any reason not to hand. Whether it has been lost or destroyed, you will need your conveyancer to apply for replacement with a certified copy from the Deeds Office. And whereas that is currently a pretty straightforward procedure with minimal delay and cost, that is set to change shortly. We’ll share with you all the details and we’ll give you a plan of action, but beware – your window of opportunity here is a narrow one! Imagine that you sell your house/apartment/office/factory/plot of land and you thereafter instruct your conveyancer to pass transfer to…
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Private Schools and Parents Behaving Badly – the Expulsion Option

Legal
Here’s a recent Supreme Court of Appeal decision of A B and Another v Pridwin Preparatory School and Others (1134/2017) [2018] ZASCA 150 which is of importance and interest to all schools, parents and learners. It deals with a school’s attempt to cancel a parent contract (effectively expelling two young learners) after the parents created a “toxic and intolerable atmosphere” in the school with an eight-month spree of bad behaviour and expletive-rich abuse, mostly at school sporting events. In brief, the Court measured the school’s contract and conduct against its constitutional obligations towards both the learners and all the other affected parties, and against the over-riding principle that the interests of the child are always paramount. Importantly, this case involves not a state-controlled public school but a private school (private schools being recognised in…
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