Donald Dinnie

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Interpreting insurance contracts: a refresher (part 2)

An insurance contract is presumed to require that the insured peril must be the proximate cause of the insured’s loss (see Incorporated General Insurance Ltd v A.R. Shooter trading as Shooter’s Fisheries 1987). Causation involves two distinct enquiries namely factual causation and then legal causation. The test for factual causation is generally described as the … Continue reading

Interpreting insurance contracts: a refresher (part 1)

The Supreme Court of Appeal judgment of Centriq Insurance Company Limited and Oosthuizen contains a useful summary of the general principles of interpretation of insurance policies and other contracts: Insurance policies are contracts like any other. Contract provisions must be construed having regard to their language, context and purpose in what is a unitary exercise. … Continue reading

Condonation granted where no prejudice proved

A plaintiff who suffers damage usually has 3 years within which to sue the defendant. But a claim against the State must be notified within 6 months of an incident occurring. This notification comes before the summons is served. If a claim is not notified within this time period (set out in the Institution of … Continue reading

Deciding between mutually destructive versions of oral agreement

Where there are mutually destructive versions of an oral agreement, a court will side with the version which is more probable considering the circumstances. The credibility of witnesses, including whether their evidence is coherent and consistent, will be taken into account. The applicant in Meintjies v Annandale and another, an owner of an accounting business … Continue reading

You can’t take judicial notice of the behaviour of kudus – need expert evidence

Is the behaviour of kudus so clearly established and common knowledge or so easily ascertainable that it does not require evidence to be proved? No. A trial court’s decision to take judicial notice of the behaviour and reaction of kudus was overturned on appeal. A court takes judicial notice of a fact without hearing evidence … Continue reading

COVID-19 and the insurance market

Have a listen to my podcast discussion with the editor of Cover magazine on the potential implications of COVID-19 on the insurance industry in South Africa. We discuss business interruption insurance, liability insurance, event cancellations and travel insurance. Where to start in evaluating insurance exposure for brokers, insurers and reinsurers is covered. Traditional business interruption … Continue reading

Effect of invalid clause within lease agreement

The Supreme Court of Appeal held in March 2020 that an invalid clause in a lease does not necessarily result in the unenforceability of the entire agreement. Two parties entered into an agreement in terms of which the lessor let the premises to the lessee for a period of ten years and three months. The … Continue reading

‘Occurrence’ in insurance policies

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 … Continue reading

The Big Read Book series – Volume 4

Norton Rose Fulbright’s collection of South African insurance judgments for 2019 is now available here. 2019 saw a limited number of insurance disputes determined by way of litigation. The various alternative dispute resolution mechanisms used by the insurance industry continue to function well and deliver a tremendous service to insured and insurer alike. Volume 4 of … Continue reading

Insurance claims and COVID-19

If you haven’t already dusted off the business interruption, liability and event cancellation policies you have underwritten, or placed for an insured, and checked for coronavirus coverage, now is the time to do so. Exposure and benefits of both business interruption coverage (covering the insureds losses from an abrupt shutdown) and contingent business interruption coverage … Continue reading

Interpretation of an EAR Policy’s defect exclusion clause

A Greek appeal court was recently called upon to interpret the exclusion under the Contractors’ Erection All Risks Policy which read: “the insurer shall not Indemnify the Insured for … The cost of replacement, repair or rectification of loss due to defective material and/or workmanship. This exclusion shall be limited to the insured items directly … Continue reading

Disclaimers and the Consumer Protection Act

For the first time, a South African court in Van Wyk v UPS dealt with the application of the Consumer Protection Act to disclaimer clauses in a contract. On the facts, the court applied sections 22, 49 and 52 to sever from the agreement the specific clauses on which the defendant sought to escape liability … Continue reading

Causation, the ‘but-for’ test and flexibility

A defendant is not liable unless their wrongful conduct in fact causes the claimant’s harm. The defendant is also not liable merely because their conduct in fact caused the claimant’s harm. There must be both factual and legal causation. The long accepted test of factual causation is the ‘but-for’ test. One asks whether the claimant’s … Continue reading

Gross negligence carve-outs

Often ‘gross negligence’ is used as a carve-out from a no-liability clause. The Consumer Protection Act expressly provides that a supplier cannot exclude liability for gross negligence. Negligence is the deviation from the standard of care expected of a reasonable person in the particular circumstances. Clearly more than mere negligence is involved when a person … Continue reading

Euthanasia in South Africa

The debate around euthanasia and its legal implications has stirred again due to the 2019 case of Professor Sean Davison, charged with three counts of murder in circumstances where the individuals had asked him for assistance in their deaths. Understandably, faced with a long prison sentence if convicted of murder, Professor Davison concluded a court-approved … Continue reading

Insurers, personal injury damages and medical expenses

Insurers dealing with and defending personal injury claims under a liability policy should bear in mind the general principles regarding claims for damages in those cases. The plaintiff who claims damages for the cost of future medical expenses bears the onus of proving the damages claimed and that the damages claim is reasonable. Generally it … Continue reading

Reviewing the law on ‘reasonable precautions’

The reasonable precautions clause which commonly appears in policies requires the insured to take reasonable steps to safeguard the insured property or prevent accidents and minimise loss, damage or liability (or variations thereof). The clause most likely requires proof of recklessness on the part of the insured but interestingly, there is no authoritative judgment by … Continue reading

Responsibility of resort for sexual assault of guest

The terrible and harrowing tale of an 18 year old mildly intellectually impaired woman can be read in the judgments of the high court (Bridgman NO v Witzenberg Municipality and others) and the appeal judgment of Witzenberg Municipality v Bridgman NO and others of 3 December 2019. Both the lower and appeal court had no … Continue reading
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