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

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…
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Small Claims Courts – From 1 April You Can Sue For Up To R20,000

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…
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Losing Your Licence with AARTO Demerits: More Danger than You Thought, and The Wheels are Turning

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…
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Neighbours Building? Know Your Rights Re Plan Approval

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…
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Traffic Fines and Admissions of Guilt – Will They Earn You a Criminal Record?

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…
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Trustees at War: The Removal Remedy and Its Limits

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…
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When Should You Sue Rogue Employees? A R33m Example

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…
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Property Buyers: Beware Unlawful Occupiers!

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…
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