The test enunciated by the English court in Kuwait Airways Corporation v Kuwait Insurance Co [1996] 1 Lloyds Rep 664, confirmed in Mann and Another v Lexington Insurance Company [2000] is no different in South African law.

“An ‘occurrence’ (which is not materially different from an event or happening, unless perchance the contractual context requires some distinction to be made) is not the same as a loss, for one occurrence may embrace a plurality of losses. Nevertheless, the losses’ circumstances must be scrutinized to see whether they involve such a degree of unity as to justify their being described as, or as arising out of, one occurrence. The matter must be scrutinized from the point of view of an informed observer placed in the position of the insured. In assessing the degree of unity regard may be had to such factors as cause, locality and time and the intentions of the human agents. An occurrence is not the same thing as a peril, but in considering the viewpoint or focus of the scrutineer one may properly have regard to the context of the perils insured against.”

The degree of unity is determined with reference to cause, locality and time of the losses viewed from the informed observer in the position of the insured.

The Kuwait judgment contains a useful analysis of authorities regarding what constitutes ‘occurrence’. The judgment dealt with Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 in which 14 aircraft and spares were taken to Iraq within a week and one about a month later. The court found that the ‘occurrence’ was the invasion on 2 August, not the separate takings.