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01 Mar 2018

Maintenance Defaulters – No Place to Hide

Obtaining a maintenance order for the support of yourself and/or your children is all very well, but what if you are dealing with an “Artful Dodger” who is determined not to pay you?

New provisions in the Maintenance Act just handed you two powerful new weapons –

  • Tracing defaulters: Serial maintenance dodgers are fond of going to ground to make themselves as hard as possible to trace. They’ll find that a lot harder to do now that maintenance courts can order network service providers (all “Electronic Communications Service Providers” are in the net on this one) to provide the court with all the contact information they have on the defaulter.
  • Blacklisting defaulters: Living the high life on credit is no longer an option for defaulters, who face blacklisting when courts send their personal particulars to credit bureaus.

These new provisions are in addition to the existing sanctions of criminal prosecution (up to 3 years’ imprisonment), imprisonment for contempt of court, attachment of assets and earnings etc.

01 Mar 2018

Dogs (and Other Animals) Behaving Badly: An Angry Ostrich and a R6.75m claim

Your dog bites the neighbour or a visitor is hurt running away from an angry ostrich on your property – can you be sued?

A recent SCA (Supreme Court of Appeal) decision illustrates.

R6.75m claimed for a snapped Achilles tendon

  • A visitor was invited to a farm (roamed by a variety of game including ostrich, giraffe and buck) to assist in capturing wildebeest.
  • When he ran from an ostrich that he thought was chasing him, he fell and snapped his Achilles tendon.
  • He sued for damages of R6.75m and the High Court held the farm owner liable for whatever losses he could prove.
  • The SCA overturned this decision, finding that the visitor had, despite his denials, previously teased the ostrich on several occasions and made it angry. On the day in question he had also, found the Court, thrown a stone at the bird whilst it was peaceably minding its own business, and this had provoked the chase.
  • That provocation, held the Court, provided the farmer with a good defence to the visitor’s claim.

But be careful – you face liability without fault!

The Court in reaching its decision analysed how our modern courts have applied and interpreted several ancient Roman laws dealing with the question of liability for damage/injury caused by animals (domesticated and wild).

Lawyers of an academic bent will doubtless spend many happy hours analysing the SCA’s judgment, but unless you are interested in learning about the theory and ins-and-outs of arcane concepts like actio de pauperie, edictum de feris, qua vulgo iter fit and the like, best confine yourself to understanding these practical issues –

  • Let’s start with the really risky part for animal owners. You are “strictly liable” (i.e. you are liable without any fault or negligence on your part) for the consequences of your animal’s behaviour. In the case of a domestic animal (like a dog) you have a bit of protection – you are liable only if the animal acted from “inward excitement or vice” and against its natural behaviour. If it’s a wild animal there is no such restriction.
  • You do also have several defences you can raise, those relevant in this case being that the victim contributed to his/her own loss either through a deliberate action (like provoking a chase or an attack), or through contributory negligence. Take advice in need on the other defences you may be able to shelter behind.
  • You also risk being sued under the normal principles of liability for negligence.

How to protect yourself

Bottom line – protect yourself by reducing the risks your animals pose to others, and check that your insurance will cover you if you are sued. Disclaimers of liability are also a no-brainer for commercial operations like game farms and reserves, but they need careful wording to afford any hope of protection.

01 Mar 2018

Wills and Estates: Cost of Dying Rises with Master’s Fees Increase

If you are inheriting from someone who passed away on or after 1 January 2018, don’t blame the estate’s executor for one substantially-increased cost you may notice – Master’s Office fees.

They are calculated on the value of the deceased estate and were long overdue for an increase, going up sharply from the old maximum of R600 to a new maximum of R7,000 (which will apply to any estate of R3.6m or more).

See the table below for details –

01 Mar 2018

The Art of Smartphone Battery Charging

As our dependency on our always-connected cell phones grows, so does the importance of maximising battery life.

That’s particularly relevant with the death knell now sounded for removable-battery phones. When your battery dies, you can no longer replace it yourself with a low-priced third party one, nor with a spare you carry around for sudden failures. You are in for the cost and delay of paying a technician to do the job for you.

So keep your battery alive and well for as long as possible. Cut through all the grey areas and myths surrounding the topic with “Smartphone charging myths – Are you killing your battery?” on the MyBroadband website

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