DGA - Debra Gouws Attorneys's Monthly Newsletter

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Property Owner and Body Corporate Liable After Child’s Electrocution?

Property owners (separate title holders as well as those in community schemes), bodies corporate and building contractors should all understand their risk of being sued if a dangerous situation exists or develops on a property or in a complex.

We discuss these risks, and how to address them, with reference to a High Court claim for R3m brought by a mother on behalf of her young son who was electrocuted when he tried to turn on a tap. 

The tap had been electrified through the negligence of several contractors, and this dangerous situation had been compounded by the negligence of others. The court’s assessment of which of the various parties involved must pay damages, and why, provides valuable lessons for all role-players.

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Don’t Accidentally Disqualify Your Chosen Heirs from Inheriting!

Your will lies at the heart of ensuring that your loved ones will be able to cope financially once you are gone, so it is of course vital that it be both valid and an accurate reflection of your wishes.

A little-known danger in this regard is that you might inadvertently disqualify one or more of your intended heirs from inheriting. We discuss this danger, and the law and practicalities involved, in the context of a High Court fight between a deceased testator’s children from two different marriages.

The outcome provides yet another warning to have your will prepared for you by a  professional.
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Exemption Clauses and Thieving Employees: Can You Sue (or Be Sued)?

For some employers, a dishonest employee means stock walking out the back door, internal fraud and the like. For others, there is an added dimension of risk – being sued by a customer or client whose goods the light-fingered staff member has stolen. 

One such case that ended up in the Supreme Court of Appeal saw a forwarding agent defending a claim for R4.5m after a bent employee collected imported laptops from an airport cargo warehouse and disappeared with them. 

The employer’s reliance on exemption/disclaimer clauses in its standard terms and conditions, and the Court’s analysis of their effectiveness in these types of cases, provide valuable guidance for both employers and their customers.

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What Can You Do When Someone Close to You Has No Control Over Their Spending?

If someone close to you loses control over their spending and starts squandering their money and property recklessly, threatening themselves and their dependants with destitution, you should consider approaching the High Court for help.

The Court can, as long as you provide it with sufficient reasons to do so, declare the person a “prodigal” and appoint a curator bonis to look after their financial affairs.

That is however a drastic remedy which our courts will not lightly grant so, as happened in the recent case of a “hard drinker” accused of squandering his estate on prostitutes, you will fail if you don’t put forward a strong enough case.

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Your Website of the Month: The 9 Key Points of Making a Difficult Decision

“Avoiding a decision is itself a decision … probably the wrong one”

Decisions, decisions – we spend our days making them, most of them minor but every now and then a really big, important one comes along. Perhaps it’s something like  “Should I resign my 9-to-5 and start up that artisanal bakery business I’ve always dreamed of?” or “Should we sell up and move to the coast?” or even “Should we list on the JSE?”.

Whatever difficult decision may be looming over you, remember that delay is tempting but unwise. Rather grab the nettle with the “9 key points” in Psyche’s article “How to make a difficult decision” here.



The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.

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