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Injured Consumers Put Law to the Test

/Injured Consumers Put Law to the Test

Injured Consumers Put Law to the Test

Injured Consumers Put Law to the Test 

The Weekend Argus

7 January 2015
Fatima Schroeder
Justice Writer

Hardware giant Builders’ Warehouse is being challenged under the new Consumer Protection Act.

Two Consumer Protection Act test cases lodged against a hardware giant  could keep South African  retailers on their toes over the stock , and open  the  floodgates  for similar lawsuits.

Builders Warehouse faces claims totalling about R18 million which were lodged  over the  holiday season  in the North  and South Gauteng High Court  by a Joburg commercial  pilot and a Pretoria IT  technician.

Both cases  involve injuries  claimed to  have been  sustained  as a  result of   allegedly defective  ladders.

Tzvi Brivik of  Malcolm Lyons & Brivik , which represents  the two men, said a favourable  decision  would  create a precedent  other consumers  could use  in  future   similar claims.

“Currently there is no case  law where a  product liability claim such as this has been decided  based on the  Consumer Protection Act. Previously, a plaintiff  would have to claim  against the manufacturer of the defective  product, basing  the claim on  delictual law. This means that the defect must be  proved  by the Plaintiff. The  Consumer Protection Act now  changes that. Except for limited exceptions, which are set out in the act , the  onus  now lies  on the  distributor, producer  or importer  to  show the product  was safe for  use. This is a substantial  shift in our law and assists consumers  in  campaigning  for safe  products  marketed  for profit,” he said.

Builders Warehouse  has not yet  filed  responding papers but has indicated  that  both actions  will be defended.

It said : “ Builders Warehouse  sells in excess  of  50 000  units per annum. We can confirm that we have  recently received  two liability claims from a Johannesburg – based lawyer with respect to  two  incidents  that occurred  over a 10 month period  in  2014. A motion to  defend  both actions  has been filed.”

According  to the  court  papers, South African Airways  pilot Andrew Doig  hasn’t  been able to  return to work since he injured his spine  in June.

He fell  when the  3.8 m Isaacson telepscopic  ladder he bought   from Builders Warehouse  in Fourways  broke  while he was  descending  it.
“It is expected that , as a  result of  his injuries  and their  sequelae , in the  future  will encounter difficulty with  the  physical  demands  of  flying international  routes and  within five  years will  be limited to  domestic flights  with a  20 percent  reduction  in his  annual earnings  and in his  international allowances, “ the  papers state.

In addition , it is expected  that  Doig  will be  compelled  to  retire  early and  he will not be  able to earn  an income  as a freelance pilot.
Doig instituted  the action against  Massbuild  ( which  trades as Builders Warehouse ) as well as the  importer  or producer  of the ladder , Isaacson  Ladders.

He is claiming R14.3m in damages  as well as $182 400.00

In the  second  action , Riaan Beeslaar  of Pretoria  severely injured  his ankle  after a 3.7m  aluminium  multipurpose  folding  ladder  bought  at Builders Warehouse in Gesina  suddenly  collapsed.

According to  court  papers , Beeslaar  will not be  able to  continue working  as an IT  field  technician  because  he will not  be able to cope with the  demands of the job, due to his injury.

He is claiming R1.6m  in damages.

Doig and Beeslaar allege that their injuries were caused by product  failure  and Builders Warehouse’s alleged supply  of  unsafe goods.

Beeslaar  also alleges that instructions  on any hazard  while using  the  ladder were  in adequate.
The men are  relying  on Section 61 of the Consumer Protection  Act, which details  with  consumers’ rights  to  fair  value,  good  quality  and safety.
Section 61 specifically deals with the  liability  of retailers  and distributors  when someone is  injured or killed through the  supply of  defective  or  hazardous goods.

Brivik said the Consumer Protection  Act, was applicable  to  most transactions, unless  it was specifically  excluded.

“Although published in  2008, it has not made  its way into the  product  liability  litigation  yet.  More  consumers  need to be  aware  of their rights  in terms of this  far reaching  legislation. The act introduces  the  right to  fair value , good quality  and to  safety which is paramount  for  consumers.
“It defines  a defect  in the  product  as a material  imperfection  that a consumer  would not  find unacceptable. It defines  a failure  of a  product  as an inability of the product to perform in its  intended  manner  and it defines  an unsafe  product  as a product  that  poses a  risk to  personal injury.”

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2018-11-04T10:47:26+00:00May 22nd, 2015|

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