Month: May 2016

Standard acknowledgements of debt and The National Credit Act (NCA)

A4_BThe new NCA does not only regulate instalment sale agreements and lease agreements in respect of movables as was done by its predecessor, the repealed Credit Agreements Act 75 of 1980. The NCA also applies to a much wider variety of credit agreements and has no monetary cap. Instead of instituting legal action a creditor often gets a debtor to sign an acknowledgement of debt to facilitate repayment. This document could contain a provision for instalments and interest and fees. The question arises whether this agreement in confirmation of an existing obligation constitutes a credit agreement for purposes of the NCA.

The purpose of this Act is to promote and advance the social and economic welfare of South Africans, promote a fair, transparent, competitive, sustainable, responsible, efficient, effective and accessible credit market and industry, and to protect consumers.

“Credit”, when used as a noun, is defined in the Act as a deferral of payment of money owed to a person or a promise to defer such payment; or a promise to advance or pay money to or at the direction of another person.

“Agreement” includes an arrangement or understanding between or among two or more parties which purports to establish a relationship in law between those parties.

The parties to a credit agreement governed by the NCA are referred to as the “consumer” and the “credit provider” and these definitions should be considered. An acknowledgement of debt normally refers to a historical event of cause and does not constitute a credit guarantee or any of the named credit transactions such as a pawn agreement, discount agreement, incidental credit agreement, instalment agreement, lease, secured loan or mortgage agreement or credit facility. However, the fact that it contains a deferral of payment and requires the payment of interest, fees and other charges, will cause it to fall within the ambit of the catch-all term “credit transaction” provided for in Section 8(4)(f) of the Act.

Section 2(1) provides that the Act must be interpreted in a manner that gives effect to the purposes set out in Section 3. The question really is whether the legislature intended the rearrangement or the repayment terms of an existing debt, for instance where money has already been advanced to a consumer a considerable period of time ago or where damages were suffered as a result of a delict or breach of contract, to constitute a credit agreement or transaction for purposes of the NCA. Due to the elements of deferral and the charging of interest, fees and other charges in a standard acknowledgement of debt, and in the absence of any express or implicit indication to the contrary, it seems an inescapable conclusion that the agreement could be defined as a credit agreement within the meaning of the NCA. The relevance of this is that it might be that the credit provider would be required to register as such with the National Credit Regulator, affordability assessment would have to be done prior to conclusion, the consumer could become overindebted and apply for debt review, and so many onerous requirements will be applicable.

It is submitted that where the cause of action in relation to which the acknowledgement of debt was entered into is based on a contract or agreement which constitutes a credit agreement, the insertion of a no-novation clause into an acknowledgement of debt will not serve to exclude the agreement subsequently concluded, from the ambit of the NCA. However, where the debt initially arose as a result of a delict, the insertion of a no-novation clause might have the effect of preserving the original cause of action, namely the delict, and thus cause the matter to fall outside the scope of the NCA.

One thing to be kept in mind is that a “consumer”, in respect of a credit agreement to which the NCA applies, means

(a) the party to whom goods or services are sold under a discount transaction, incidental credit agreement or instalment agreement;

(b) the party to whom money is paid, or credit granted, under a pawn transaction;

(c) the party to whom credit is granted under a credit facility;

(d) the mortgagor under a mortgage agreement;

(e) the borrower under a secured loan;

(f) the lessee under a lease;

(g) the guarantor under a credit guarantee; or

(h) the party to whom or at whose direction money is advanced or credit granted under any other credit agreement.

This definition might provide the answer as the acknowledgement of debt might, as a different cause of action, not qualify the consumer under the above definition. So, too, is the underlying cause of action to the acknowledgement of debt, and it deserves no debate that signing an acknowledgement of debt is not something to go about without due consideration.

Should a court be convinced that the written acknowledgement of debt is subject to the NCA the court could be required to make a ruling in terms of Section 130(4)(b) of the NCA, which states:

In any proceedings contemplated in this section, if the court determines that – … the credit provider has not complied with the relevant provisions of this Act, as contemplated in subsection (3)(a), or has approached the court in circumstances contemplated in subsection (3)(c) the court must – adjourn the matter before it; and make an appropriate order setting out the steps the credit provider must complete before the matter may be resumed.

In Adams v SA Motor Industry Employers Association 1981 (3) SA 1189 (A) at 1198 – 1199, the court held that there is a presumption against novation and that, where novation was not intended, it was possible for two obligations to co-exist. These obligations would be interdependent, and the creditor does not have a free election to enforce the original obligation. An acknowledgment of debt, sometimes referred to as an IOU, is evidence of a debt which is due, but differs from a promissory note as it does not contain an express promise to pay. However, where the acknowledgment of debt is coupled with an undertaking to pay, it will give rise to an obligation in terms of that undertaking.

The case of Rodel Financial Service (Pty) Ltd v Naidoo and Another 2013 (3) Sa 151 (Kzp), and its annotations is recommended for reading and getting a better understanding of the applicable principles.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other 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 legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Sport Injuries: Who is liable?

A3_BContact sports often lead to the players thereof being seriously injured. Can anyone be held liable for these injuries or are the players taking an inherent risk when participating in these sports? Case law has established some important principles when dealing with this issue. Make sure you know what you are allowed and not allowed to do on the field of play.

Are you in fact consenting to an injury when participating in a dangerous sport? The issue was considered in the 2012 Supreme Court of Appeal-case, Roux v Hattingh. In this case the appellant seriously injured the respondent while performing an illegal and dangerous scrumming manoeuvre, referred to as a jack-knife.

Appeal Court Judge Plasket ruled in favour of the respondent. It was held that the Appellant purposefully injured the Respondent and his actions were found to be wrongful. The legal principle of Volenti Non Fit Iniuria, or the consent to potential damage, would be sufficient to protect a person that injures another in a sporting match, but only in the usual and reasonable course of the specific game.

First, the “jack-knife” manoeuvre executed by Alex was in contravention of the rules of the game. It was also contrary to the spirit and conventions of the game. Secondly, because it had a code name, the manoeuvre must have been pre-planned and it was consequently also executed deliberately. Thirdly, while one of its objects may have been to gain an advantage in the scrum, and another may have been to intimidate the opposition, particularly Ryan, it was also extremely dangerous.”[1]

Plasket AJ continues further:

“Because this conduct amounted to such a serious violation of the rules; it is not normally associated with the game of rugby and is extremely dangerous. It would not have constituted conduct which rugby players would accept as part and parcel of the normal risks.”[2]

It is clear from the AJ Plasket’s judgment that the main issue to be considered when evaluating whether a person should be held liable for an injury caused in a contact sport, should be whether the conduct should be considered to be normal for the specific game being played.

Appeal Judge Brand, in a concurring judgment expands the issue further:

 “I believe that conduct which constitutes a flagrant contravention of the rules of rugby and which is aimed at causing serious injury or which is accompanied by full awareness that serious injury may ensue, will be regarded as wrongful and hence attract legal liability for the resulting harm”.[3]

It is stated that when an action is of such a nature that it is a blatant breach of the laws of a game, the player reconciles himself with the contravention of such law and the possible consequences and deliberately goes ahead with such action, the player should be held liable. It is important that the meaning behind this passage is not that any injury that occurs as a result of a broken rule of the game, should be punished by law, but only in cases where the infringement is serious and obvious enough to warrant such action.

This would place an overly onerous burden on a person to not contravene any rule of the game to avoid punishment. Imagine a rugby player being held delictually liable for injuring an opposing player when going of his feet a ruck, a common mistake in rugby that should not lead to legal liability. The reasoning behind the judgment in the Roux-case is simply that where a player deliberately and flagrantly breaks a rule of the game and knows that such contravention will or might cause serious injury to an opposing player, he or she can be held delictually liable.

There is therefore no need to alter the way in which you play a game because of the fear of legal consequences. However, be aware that malicious actions on the field of play, may lead to serious repercussions.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other 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 legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Bibliography

Articles

Labuschagne JMT “Straf- en Delikregtelike Aanspreeklikheid vir Sportbeserings” Stell LR 1998 1 72

Cases

Roux v Hattingh 2012 (6) SA 428 (SCA)

[1] Roux v Hattingh 2012 (6) SA 428 (SCA) at Par27

[2] Roux v Hattingh 2012 (6) SA 428 (SCA) at Par28

[3] Labuschagne JMT “Straf- en Delikregtelike Aanspreeklikheid vir Sportbeserings” Stell LR 1998 1 72 78

Consider your claim carefully: Some of the need to know facts in the event of a third party claim against the RAF (Road Accident Fund)

A2_BThe Road Accident Fund (hereinafter referred to as the RAF) has over the years created the assurance that public road users will be covered in the event of any motor vehicle accident which caused either injuries or death, and for the losses suffered thereby, such as medical expenses, loss of earnings and even general damages (damages for pain and suffering).

Before the Road Accident Fund Amendment Act 19 of 2005, which came into operation on 1 August 2008, this had the effect of any person simply being able to institute a claim against the RAF in any event of an accident which amounted to damages suffered as a result of injury or death, or even a claim based on pain and suffering. This sounded simple enough, that is until the Road Accident Fund Amendment Act 19 of 2005 came into operation, placing two very important limitations on claims from the RAF.

The first limitation relates to claiming from the RAF and/or the wrongdoer. In respect of the old Road Accident Fund Act 56 of 1996, the victim who had a limited claim against the RAF, still had a common law claim against the wrongdoer in respect of the excess amount not compensated for by the RAF. This meant that should the road accident victim only be compensated by the RAF for a portion of the damages suffered during the accident, the remaining portion could still be claimed from the wrongdoer in his personal capacity. For example, if victim X suffered damages in the amount of R200 000 and the RAF only compensated the victim in the amount of R150 000, the remaining R50 000 could still be recovered from the wrongdoer in person. This would have the effect of two separate claims. However, should the victim have received full compensation in terms of Section 17 of Act 56 of 1996 for the amount of R200 000, such victim would not have another claim against the wrongdoer.

In terms of the new Road Accident Fund Amendment Act this common law right has been abolished by the institution of Section 21 of the Road Accident Fund Amendment Act. The victim will currently only be able to claim/recover losses or damages suffered as a result of a motor vehicle accident from the RAF. There can be no more separate claims in respect of one cause of action.

The second important amendment is a part of Section 21 which places a cap on the amount of loss of earnings claimed and the amount of general damages claimed, i.e. damages claimed for pain and suffering.

With regard to the capped amount allowed to claim for loss of earnings, a victim is only allowed to claim damages up to the amount of R160 000, but this amount changes quarterly according to the fluctuation in interest rates and currently it stands at R201 337 per annum as from October 2012. Should the victim earn a salary of more than the said amount per annum, he or she will be unable to institute such a claim against the RAF. / Should the victim earn a salary of more than the said amount per annum, his or her claim will be limited to the amount dictated by the Law.

Furthermore, with regard to a claim for damages based on injuries suffered, the claim will only succeed if the victim can prove that he/she has suffered “serious injuries” as defined in the Act. This would amount to injuries sustained which has ultimately rendered such victim at least 30% disabled in his or her everyday life. This limitation does not take into consideration any personal circumstances. Similarly, no common law right exists to institute a second claim against the wrongdoer in the event of failure against the RAF.

Also important to remember is the fact that when consideration is given to medical expenses suffered, the amount is calculated according to the rate charged at a public level (public hospital rates) and not at a private level (private hospital rates).

In conclusion, it is important to remember that the RAF takes over the liability of the wrongdoer in such accidents, meaning that actions must be instituted against the RAF and not the wrongdoer in the first instance. The exception is where the RAF is unable to pay compensation or where emotional shock is suffered. In such a case, the action may be instituted against the wrongdoer in person. Any action instituted against the RAF is a time-consuming process and requires due consideration before proceeding. Section 21 of the Road Accident Fund Amendment Act has definitely placed limitations on claims that need to be borne in mind.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other 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 legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Commencement of Business Rescue proceedings

A1_BIs your company experiencing financial strain? Are creditors breathing down your neck? Business Rescue proceedings may be a solution to your problems.

Business Rescue is a new approach that is governed by the Companies Act 71 of 2008 (“the new Companies Act”) with the aim of assisting companies which are experiencing financial strain and are unable to pay their creditors in the ordinary course of business. This article will look at what Business Rescue encompasses, as well as how Business Rescue proceedings are commenced.

Section 128(1) (b) of the Companies Act defines Business Rescue proceedings as proceedings to facilitate the rehabilitation of a company that is financially distressed by providing, inter alia, temporary supervision of a company under a Business Rescue practitioner.

The role of the Business Rescue practitioner (who must be appointed within 5 days after the company has been placed under Business Rescue) is to ensure that the company complies fully with the steps to be taken once Business Rescue proceedings have commenced. They must also ensure that everything reasonably possible is being done (including the drafting of a Business Rescue plan) to assist the company in getting out of its current state of financial strain and into a position where it will be able to pay its creditors in the ordinary course of business.

The new Companies Act stipulates that, in order to place a company under Business Rescue, a resolution must be taken by the Board of Directors and an application thereto must be made to the CIPC (Companies and Intellectual Property Commission). The Commissioner must then consider the application and approve or reject it. Alternatively, any interested or affected party may apply to the Court for a court order placing the company under Business Rescue.

A company that is under Business Rescue is protected from creditors in that no legal action or proceedings may be taken against a company that has commenced with Business Rescue proceedings.

It is imperative to note that a lack of full compliance with the requirements in respect of Business Rescue proceedings may render the Business Rescue proceedings null and void. This position was reiterated in the High Court case of Advanced Technologies & Engineering Company (Pty) Ltd v Aeronautique et Technologies Embarquees SAS (unreported CASE NO 72522/20110), and the Court further held that the new Companies Act does not provide for condonation of non-compliance with the requirements.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other 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 legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

References:

  • Companies Act 71 of 2008
  • D Davis, W Geach, T Mongalo, D Butler, A Loubser, L Coetzee, D Burdette, 3rd Edition (2013) Commercial law: Companies and other Business Structures in South Africa.

© 2017

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑