OUR MOST RECENT SUCCESS
We pursued a claim against Eskom the national electricity provider, on behalf of a young electricity contractor.
An Eskom employee had left some doors open on a site on which he was working. This would have allowed access to any member of the public to extremely dangerous electrical equipment and be exposed to 11500 volts of electricity posing a huge danger to anybody entering.
Our client stepped into the live chamber to inspect it which he assumed was not live as the door was open.
He was electrocuted. The electrocution was so severe that he was thrown out of the room and down a flight of stairs. Needless to say, he was severely injured. 11500 volts of electricity appears to have entered into his body through his knee and exited through his arm. He has left with limited use of one arm; no use of some of his fingers and severe orthopaedic and psychological damage.
Eskom opposed the claim brought by the client and would not consider any form of reasonable settlement. The matter went to trial and after 5 days hearing, we established it was Eskom’s responsibility to ensure that the public had no access to the high voltage rooms and was negligent in keeping open the door to the live chamber.
The Johannesburg High Court nevertheless dismissed our client’s claim. The application was then made for leave to appeal and the Judge accepted that another court might disagree with him and granted the right to argue our client’s case in Bloemfontein before the Supreme Court of Appeal.
The court said that our client acted reasonably in investigating why the doors had been left open by Eskom’s employees and also in wanting to ensure that the door was secured so that no member of the public would have access to this live chamber. The 5 Judges of appeal were unanimous in awarding 50% of our client’s damages to him as he was partly at fault in entering the chamber.
In a significant change to the law, the Supreme Court of Appeal found against two of our clients in what we believe to be unfair to the victims. Our clients were innocent bystanders standing on a balcony which had been poorly erected. The balcony collapsed and our clients were severely injured. Before a single Judge in the Cape Town High Court, our clients were successful in proving damages against the homeowner for failing to properly lodge plans for the proposed balcony and for not conducting a proper investigation as to the qualification and expertise of the contractor and subcontractor. It was also established that the
balcony was poorly constructed while being supervised by the main contractor.
The Defendants appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeal , Bloemfontein .
The Appeal Court held that where a homeowner has given over responsibility to a contractor, he absolves himself from any liability. Where the contractor subcontracts responsibility for certain portions of the building the contractor also absolved himself from liability. The person left “ holding the can” the subcontractor was held liable for damages that he was a man of straw. The subcontractors had no insurance or the wherewithal to satisfy the claim for damages. The owner and main contractor both of whom had substantial assets were held not liable to the Plaintiffs. This Judgment in our view permits shopping centres, supermarkets and other large institutions to avoid responsibility for ensuring that floor surfaces are clean and dry to avoid slipping on them or for construction in properly done by simply handing it over to a contractor ; who can then in turn subcontract it responsibilities – leaving you the consumer without adequate redress if the subcontractor has no insurance or assets.