This blog was co-authored by Lesego Moloisana, candidate attorney at Norton Rose Fulbright South Africa.

In Sandla v RAF, the claimant sued RAF for the loss of support after her older brother (hereafter ‘the deceased’) died in a motor vehicle collision. The claimant claimed that the deceased had inherited the duty to support her during his lifetime following the death of their parents.

The claimant based her claim on section 17(1)(a) of the Road Accident Fund Act, 1996 (the Act), which requires RAF to compensate anyone who suffers a loss due to bodily injury or death caused by a motor vehicle accident if the injury was due to the negligence or wrongful act of the driver or owner of the vehicle.

The question before the court was whether or not the deceased had a legal duty to support the claimant; and if so, whether the claimant has a valid claim for loss of support against RAF.

The claimant stated that upon the passing of her parents, when she was 13 years old, she became solely dependent on her late brother, her only surviving sibling. The deceased was responsible for her schooling and welfare, including funding her tertiary qualifications. The deceased provided the claimant with clothing and housing, and paid for her monthly expenses. At the time of the deceased’s passing, the claimant had three qualifications but was unemployed and continued to experience financial hardships and difficulty finding employment. The deceased was employed by the Department of Police and was survived by his wife and children. The claimant confirmed that she did not inherit from her late brother’s estate nor did she file any claim against his estate as she felt that her brother was not bound to maintain her but did so as a result of their sibling relationship.

RAF alleged that the claimant had no claims on the following grounds: the claimant had no legal standing by virtue of being the deceased’s sibling; the deceased did not have a legal duty to support the claimant, which would give rise to a claim for compensation against RAF; and further, the duty of support would have terminated at the time of the accident as the claimant had attained the age of majority, being 28 years old, with the result that the deceased no longer had the duty of support.

For a loss of support claim to succeed, the claimant must prove that the deceased had a legal duty to support them, and that this duty is recognised and protected by law based on principles of morality and justice (boni mores). In considering these criteria, the court relied on case law which held that our law has thus recognised that the duty of support extends to children, parents, and even siblings, such as in this case, with due regard to factors such as morality, justice, and the history of support, even in instances where such support was not mandatory or typical. This duty of support was qualified by the claimant attaining majority and being physically as well as mentally well.

The court was of the view that although a duty of support does exist between siblings, in this case, the deceased did not have a legal duty to support the claimant beyond her attaining the age of majority and three post-matric qualifications. The claimant was employable and physically and mentally sound. She was able to devise other income-generating means to survive and therefore the RAF should not be punished for the current unemployment crisis existing in the country. The claimant was not nominated as a beneficiary of the deceased nor eligible to inherit from the deceased’s estate in terms of intestate succession nor customary law. The claimant failed to adduce sufficient evidence to support her claim of loss of support and stated that her late brother was not forced to support her, nor would she have forced him to do so had he refused to maintain her during his lifetime.

The court therefore dismissed the claimant’s claim and held that a claim for loss of support did not arise.

Sandla v Road Accident Fund (735/2022) [2024]