Where a suretyship was headed “Deed of Suretyship – Tuning Fork (Pty) Limited t/a After Market Products” it was held that the surety only owed money for the debts incurred by the After Market Products division of the company even though that division was not a separate legal person.

The court in Ian Kilburn v Tuning Fork (Pty) Limited reminded us that every word in a document must be given a meaning. Courts will not conclude, without good reason, that words in a single document are unnecessary or superfluous. The words meant that the surety only applied to the debts incurred by the principal creditor in relation to that division.

This is why many contracts exclude the headings as part of the document. But they do not usually exclude the title of the document itself. Without such a clause all headings and titles can be used as an aid to interpretation. And please don’t call headings “headnotes”.