Medical negligence claims

B2

Medical negligence refers to a negative consequence of a medical treatment that could have been avoided by the medical practitioner. The Health Professions Act 56 of 1974 outlines South African medical law and it should be consulted by any person who suspects a case of medical negligence.

What is Medical Negligence?

Imagine breaking your leg and requiring surgery for it to heal correctly. After being admitted for surgery, the surgeon guarantees you that it is a routine procedure and that your leg will heal perfectly. However, after the surgery, you have no feeling in your one foot. It is possible that a nerve has been damaged. If the surgeon is the primary cause of this consequence, for example he/she was careless, then it is considered as medical negligence.

It is worth noting that a medical practitioner cannot be held responsible for unforeseen complications that arose from unavoidable treatments. If complications arose from unknown sources, even though the practitioner has performed the treatment perfectly, he/she cannot be held responsible.

Any complication that arose after a treatment could be a result of negligence. If you suffer from an unusual complication that you suspect arose from medical treatment, it is advised to get a second opinion. If you are certain that the medical practitioner was negligent, you should not wait too long before you consult a medical malpractice lawyer, because your case can weaken over time; witnesses may forget what happened and documents can go missing.

How Is It Decided Who Was Negligent?

If you believe that you have suffered because of negligence by a medical practitioner, you have the right to lay a claim in court against him/her. A Judge will hear arguments from both legal representations and then decide whether or not negligence has occurred. Usually other medical practitioners are consulted to provide their expert testimony for both cases. The Judge must evaluate all the evidence and then pass judgment on the claim.

  1. In South Africa, the Judge must decide first whether or not the medical practitioner is liable, and then to what extent the patient must be compensated.
  2. In extreme instances, a medical negligence case can turn into a criminal case if it is proved that the medical practitioner is guilty of criminal conduct.

Sometimes the medical practitioner may be completely accountable, for example he/she could have performed the medical procedure incorrectly out of ignorance. It could also be decided that the company is completely responsible, because it did not provide the adequate equipment for the procedure. A Judge may decide that both parties are guilty of negligence and then hold them equally or partially responsible.

How Does the Claiming Process Work?

If you are no longer in need of medical attention, the first person you should get in touch with is your legal adviser. Then it is necessary to inform the Health Professions Council of South Africa to lodge a complaint.

Your legal adviser will request all your medical records to review the evidence so he/she can send a letter of demand to the medical practitioner. The response to this letter will determine whether or not the matter will go to trial; the practitioner may decide to rather settle the matter out of court and to meet the demands. If the matter does go to court, you may be required to testify.

If your claim is successful, the Judge may grant you compensation in an amount that is equal to what he/she considers fair; this may include the legal costs, loss of income and any other cost you incurred.

Reference:

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)

How do I cancel a lease?

B1

What happens when a landlord or a tenant wants to cancel a lease? What rules and what legislation apply? What protection does the law provide?

If you want to end your lease early, this can be done in situations where:

  • the Consumer Protection Act or Rental Housing Act applies, or
  • there’s a clause in the contract that allows for early cancellation, or
  • if both parties agree to it.

If, on the other hand, one of the parties wants to cancel because the other is in breach of the contract, then certain notice periods come into effect – the first of which being, of course, that the aggrieved party is required to give written notice for the breach to be remedied.

For tenants

  • If your landlord is in material breach of the lease, then cancelling your lease early will not be in breach of the contract.
  • If your landlord has met all the conditions of the lease and you decide to cancel your lease early, you will be in breach of contract unless the termination of the lease has been mutually agreed upon. Speak to your landlord before making any rushed decisions, chances are, you may be able to come to a mutual agreement whereby you are able to find a replacement tenant or sublet the property for the remainder of your lease.

For landlords

  • Firstly, look to the provisions of the lease itself. Most leases contain a breach clause, which indicate a period of a number of days that are necessary to be given as notice to the tenant of a breach. If there is no breach period specified, it will be a ‘reasonable period’ in terms of the common law.
  • If you give notice of the breach, and it is not remedied in the breach notice period, this means that you can take action to sue for whatever is owed or even issue summons and attach the tenant’s goods by evoking your landlord’s hypothec, but you cannot cancel the lease and evict.

When it comes to cancelling agreements, it is always best to consult a legal expert since doing something from your own understanding and experience could lead to a court case.

References:

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)

Selling your property? There might be some costs you are not aware of

If you are selling property in South Africa, check what costs you have to pay, and if they’re applicable to you.

  1. Bond costs

Cancellation Costs: This is charged when you cancel your bond after selling your property. They total up to R3 000 or more.

Early Settlement Penalty: If your home was recently purchased and you are in the early years (approximately 3 years) of bond repayments, your bank is entitled to charge you an early settlement fee for consolidating your bond sooner than expected. Inquire this fee with your bank so that you are set for payment.

Notice Period Penalty: With so many other things to be concerned about, you are likely unaware of the need to notify the bank of your intent to sell. While this may vary with different banks, most of them require a written notice 90 days in advance before you start consolidating your bond. Failing to supply this notice on time will entitle your bank to charge you with penalty interest.

The transfer process: This process, from the date you accept a desirable offer to purchase to the registration of the home to the buyer’s name, can take anywhere between 2.5 and 3 months. In the case where you could need money from your bond to pay off any other financial obligations, then you should withdraw it before giving your notice of cancellation.

  1. Agent’s commission and VAT

Estate agents have insight on property market trends, which is beneficial to ensure you receive what you deserve for your home. They do, however, charge commission on the sale of any property, and it is usually expressed as a percentage of the purchase price, however, it excludes VAT. This is likely the biggest cost of selling, so selling privately is an option available to you.

  1. Compliance certificates

Compliance certificates ensure that any installations that could be deemed dangerous in your home are done by a professional and done correctly. As a seller, it is your responsibility to ensure they are up to date before supplying them to the buyer. These certificates cost at least R500 each, but if there are faults discovered upon inspection, then you also have to pay for the necessary work to be done before the certificate can be issued.

Electrical: The Electrical Certificate of Compliance, also referred to as an ECOC, is valid for two years from the date of issue.

Electrical Fence System Compliance Certificate: Different from an ECOC, the Electrical Fence System Compliance Certificate is required for a home with electrical fencing as a security measure.

Beetle (entomological): While not compulsory, if the home you are selling is in the Western Cape or KwaZulu-Natal regions, you will generally need to provide the purchaser with certification. This certificate indicates that the property is free from beetle infestations.

Gas: To confirm that the gas lines in the home are safe, homeowners will be required to obtain a certificate of conformity, which indicates that the installation has been done by a qualified technician.

Plumbing: Currently a requirement for Cape Town, this certificate confirms that the plumbing on the property is sound. This certificate does not confirm that the property is free from rising damp or that there are no blocked drains.

  • If the inspection results in work needing to be done to achieve compliance, then the contractor will give a quote for it.
  1. Rates, taxes and levies clearance certificate

Rates and taxes: Attorneys will require a rates and taxes clearance certificate from the local council, and the seller will need to put money upfront to get this certificate. To provide the clearance certificate, the council can ask between 2 and 6 months of future-dated payments.

  • If the home happens to be registered within a shorter time frame, the council will pay back the additional money which the seller has paid.

Levies: In the instance where the seller is in an estate or sectional title property, the homeowners’ association or body corporate may request that the seller pays for their levies a few months in advance to ensure such costs are covered until transfer takes place.

  1. Property Capital Gains Tax

This tax is not charged on all property, but if charged, it is taxable on the resale of property. This cost is the responsibility of the seller.

  1. Moving costs

This is an inevitable part of moving from the sold property, and it is often not considered until the last minute. What must be considered here is how the move from point A to B will be made and this can also vary depending on how many trips need to be made. The costs to consider are the petrol costs and the possible cost of professional movers.

  • Getting insurance for items being moved should be factored in.

Paying to Sell Infograph

Please contact us should you have any specific questions.

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)

Sectional titles: What is the role of the body corporate?

B1When it comes to sectional title schemes, there is still widespread misunderstanding of even the basics, starting with the body corporate and how it is established, as well as what its functions and powers are. This misunderstanding often gives rise to many problems and disputes in sectional title schemes which could quite easily have been avoided.

What is a sectional title?

A Sectional Title Development Scheme, usually referred to as a “scheme”, provides for separate ownership of a property, by individuals. These schemes fall under the control of the Sectional Titles Act, which came into effect on 1 June 1988.

When you buy a property that’s part of a scheme, you own the inside of the property i.e. the space contained by the inner walls, ceilings & floors of the unit. You are entitled to paint or decorate or undertake alterations as desired, providing such alterations do not infringe on municipal by-laws.

What is the body corporate?

The Body Corporate is the collective name given to all the owners of units in a scheme. Units usually refers to the townhouses or flats in a development. The body corporate comes into existence as soon as the developer of the scheme transfers a unit to a new owner. This means that all registered owners of units in a scheme are members of the Body Corporate.

  1. The Body Corporate controls and runs the Scheme.
  2. Day-to-day administration of the Scheme is vested in trustees who are appointed by the Body Corporate.
  3. Major decisions regarding the Scheme are made by the Body Corporate, usually at the annual general meeting (AGM), or at a special general meeting (SGM). At these meetings, matters, which affect the Scheme, are discussed, budgets are approved, rules can be changed and trustees are appointed. Each member of a Body Corporate is entitled to vote at these meetings, providing that the member is not in arrears with levy payments or in serious breach of the rules.

The Body Corporate exists to manage and administer the land and buildings in the scheme. This means, that the Body Corporate is required to enforce the legislation and rules in the Sectional Titles Act, the Management Rules and the Conduct Rules of the scheme. Amongst their other duties, the Trustees manage the Body Corporate’s funds, enforce the rules and resolve conflict to the best of their ability.

References:

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)

Am I still liable for my spouse’s debt after divorce?

B2A husband and wife buy a house together. Their marriage takes a tumble, along with their ­finances, and they have to sell their home and are left with an outstanding mortgage bond. They subsequently got divorced. The couple is concerned about what will happen to the debts and who will be ­responsible for paying them.

Who pays what after divorce?

If the couple was married in ­community of property, the debt on the property is a joint debt. They will be jointly and severally liable. This means that each partner is not just liable for half the debt now that they are divorced, in fact the bank can seek the full amount from either of them. The one spouse who is held liable by the bank would then have a claim of 50% of the debt against the other, but it would be his or her responsibility to collect that debt (not the bank’s). Alternatively, the bank may agree to accept 50% from one person and release them from the ­liability, but it does not have to.

Sometimes, the divorce settlement makes a special mention of the mortgage. But if there is no clause in the divorce, the joint liability principle applies. After a divorce, the husband and wife should present their bank with a copy of the divorce settlement. This will remove any uncertainty about ownership and liability for bond payments.

Getting divorced while under debt review

If you get divorced while you are under debt review and you have the debt review court order in place, then this will need to be rescinded and for new debt counselling applications to be started, as in order to follow on with the debt counselling process you will need to reapply, but will now need to be seen as two single applications. A new budget and new proposals will also have to be drawn up.

References:

  • “Debt And Divorce”. News24. N.p., 2017. Web. 12 June 2017.
  • “Debt Review After A Divorce Settlement – Debt Review”. Debtbusters. N.p., 2017. Web. 13 June 2017.

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)

Spanking your child is illegal in South Africa

B2The South Gauteng High Court ruled that the common law defence of reasonable chastisement is not in line with the Constitution and no longer applies in our law. This means disciplining your child in the form of a spanking is no longer considered legal within South Africa.

How did it come to this?

It has always been considered a crime of assault to hit a child, however, if a parent was charged, they would be able to raise a special defence which said that if the chastisement, or discipline, was reasonable they would not be found guilty.

The special defence of chastisement has been removed by the Court, which was to bring the common law in line with the Constitution. This followed an appeal by a father who had been found guilty of assault because he beat his 13-year-old son. The way in which he beat his son was deemed to exceed the bounds of reasonable chastisement.

The Court said that it wanted to guide and support parents in finding more positive and effective ways of disciplining children. The Minister of Social Development, Bathabilie Dlamini, also agreed that the defence of reasonable chastisement is unconstitutional. The Court said that protecting children was particularly important in the context of the high levels of child abuse and violence that pervade our society.

Reference:

  • YG v S (A263/2016) [2017] ZAGPJHC 290 (19 October 2017)
  • “It’s now illegal to spank your child in SA”. https://www.enca.com/south-africa/it-is-now-illegal-to-spank-your-child-in-sa

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).

Having to work after hours: Is it legal?

B1Many industries may sometimes require their employees to work irregular hours. Employers within these industries, also known as “24/7″ industries, have somehow developed the notion that they are “different” from any other industries.

The Basic Conditions of Employment Act, and The Code of Good Practice, explain the criteria for this important aspect of employment. It is vitally important that employers are familiar with the Act and know what its implications are.

What does the Act say?

According to the Act, no employee may work more than 45 hours per week during normal work times. Furthermore, no employee may work more than 10 hours per week overtime. This applies irrespective of what industry you are in, because the act does not differentiate between different types of industries or employment environments.

The only document that may bring about a different condition would be a sectoral determination, or perhaps a Main agreement or collective agreement.

  • The idea of a “24/7” industry is irrelevant – the law remains the same. Furthermore, the Act provides for a daily rest period of 12 consecutive hours between finishing work and recommencing work.
  • Employers who allow “days off” to compensate for additional hours worked must realise that these “days off” cannot be taken from the employee’s annual leave.

Working on the weekend

If the employee’s normal shift falls on a Sunday, then he/she must be paid 1,5 times the normal wage rate for that work, and if the normal shift does not fall on a Sunday, but they are required to work that Sunday, then they must receive double the normal wage rate for the day.

Conclusion

It is clear that it is unlawful for an employer to force an employee to work a full shift of 9 hours, for example, and then have them be on “standby” for the next 12 hours – to do so would violate the condition regarding the daily rest period.

Source:

  • The South African Labour Guide, http://www.labourguide.co.za/conditions-of-employment/763-working-hours-and-overtime

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).

VAT increase and the effect on property transfers and the registration of transfers before and after 1 April 2018.

The increase was announced in the Minister of Finance’s Budget Speech on 21 February 2018. The standard rate of VAT will change from 14% to 15% on 1 April 2018 (the effective date). 

How will this VAT increase affect property transactions, property registrations and estate agent commissions?

Question 1: How will the rate increase work generally for fixed property transactions?

The rate of VAT for fixed property transactions will be the rate that applies on the date of registration of transfer of the property in a Deeds Registry, or the date that any payment of the purchase price is made to the seller – whichever event occurs first. (See, however, the exception in Question 2 below where registration (delivery) of the fixed property occurs on or before 23 April 2018.)

If a “deposit” is paid and held in trust by the transferring attorney, this payment will not trigger the time of supply as it is not regarded as payment of the purchase price at that point in time. Normally the sale price of a property is paid to the seller in full by the purchaser’s bank (for example, if a bond is granted) or by the purchaser’s transferring attorney.

However, if the seller allows the purchaser to pay the purchase price off over a period of time, the output tax and input tax of the parties is calculated by multiplying the tax fraction at the original time of supply by the amount of each subsequent payment, as and when those payments are made. In other words, if the time of supply was triggered before 1 April 2018, your agreed payments to the seller over time will not increase because of the increase in the VAT rate on 1 April 2018. 

Example:

A vendor sells a commercial building and issues a tax invoice to the purchaser on 10 January 2018. If the property will only be registered in the Deeds Registry on or after 1 April 2018 and payment will be made by the purchaser’s bank or transferring attorneys on the same date, then the time of supply will only be triggered at that later date. In this case, VAT must be charged at 15% as the rate increased on 1 April 2018 which would be before the time of supply. It does not matter that an invoice or a tax invoice was issued before the time of supply and before the VAT rate increased. The tax invoice in this case would also have to be corrected as it would have indicated VAT charged at the incorrect rate of 14%.

See also the next questions below for the rate specific rule that provides an exception for the purchase of “residential property” or land on which a dwelling is included as part of the deal.

Question 2: Is there a rate specific rule which is applicable to me if I signed the contract to buy residential property (for example, a dwelling) before the rate of VAT increased, but payment of the purchase price and registration will only take place on or after 1 April 2018?

Yes. You will pay VAT based on the rate that applied before the increase on 1 April 2018 (that is 14% VAT and not 15% VAT). This rate specific rule overrides the rules as discussed in Question 1, which applies for non- residential fixed property.

This rate specific rule applies only if:

  • you entered into a written agreement to buy the dwelling (that is “residential property”) before 1 April 2018;
  • both the payment of the purchase price and the registration of the property in your name will only occur on or after 1 April 2018; and
  • the VAT-inclusive purchase price was determined and stated as such in the agreement.

For purposes of this rule, “residential property” includes:

  • an existing dwelling, together with the land on which it is erected, or any other real rights associated with that property;
  • so-called plot-and-plan deals where the land is bought together with a building package for a dwelling to be erected on the land; or
  • the construction of a new dwelling by any vendor carrying on a construction business;
  • a share in a share block company which confers a right to or an interest in the use of a dwelling.

Question 3: How will the VAT increase affect the seller of the property and estate agent commission?

Two possible scenarios can apply:

Scenario 1:

Should the contract of sale read that a percentage commission plus VAT is payable, that will be calculated at 14% if transfer takes place before 1 April 2018 and at 15% when registration takes place on or after 1 April 2018.

The net result is that the seller (who sold prior to 31 March 2018) will receive a lower net amount on the selling price because of the increased VAT, should transfer take place after 31 March 2018.

Scenario 2:

Should the contract of sale refer to a fixed commission amount inclusive of VAT, the opposite will apply. The seller will receive the same amount, but the agent will receive less because of the increased VAT.

pic

For more information on the VAT Increase, download the SARS VAT Increase general guide and FAQs here.

Please contact us should you have any specific questions.

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)

Divorced stay at home parent

B2Are you recently divorced and a stay at home parent? Know your rights and get what you deserve!

In South African law, section 7(2) of the Divorce Act deals with the payment of maintenance in situations where no settlement agreement has been entered into between the parties, and it’s up to the courts to deal with the matter of maintenance.

What happens if I get divorced?

Rehabilitative maintenance refers to divorce situations where a maintenance order is given for a certain time after the divorce is finalised. The court makes a decision based on certain factors, including; the divorcing couple’s current and potential future financial means, their ages, the length of the marriage, their standard of living before the divorce, and any behaviour that may have contributed to the divorce.

In South Africa, no maintenance will be awarded to someone who can support themselves, or has the ability to support themselves. If the stay at home parent has not abandoned or downscaled his/her career to stay at home to take care of the children, no maintenance will be awarded.

How can the law protect me?

An award for rehabilitative maintenance is usually given when the court finds that a marriage has significantly affected the ability of one person to support themselves. When maintenance is awarded, the court takes into consideration the amount of time it will take for the stay at home parent to upskill him/herself to re-enter the job market. In many cases, it isn’t possible for the stay at home parent to re-enter the job market, and they may find themselves without an income once the period of rehabilitative maintenance is over.

Courts need to look at how employable the stay at home parent is when he/she seeks a maintenance award. If employability isn’t possible, the stay at home parent should be granted maintenance until death or remarriage.

The ages of the couple’s children will also be taken into consideration, as well as which parent will be the primary resident parent. Rehabilitative maintenance could be awarded to the stay at home parent to take care of the children until they can support themselves.

References:

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).

How to evict an illegal tenant

B1

Landlords who have tenants that they believe are occupying their premises illegally may not forcefully remove such tenants. The Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (No. 19 of 1998) provides for the prohibition of unlawful eviction and also provides proper procedures for the eviction of unlawful occupiers.

According to the Act:

  • no one may be deprived of property except in terms of law of general application, and no law may permit arbitrary deprivation of property;
  • no one may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances;
  • it is desirable that the law should regulate the eviction of unlawful occupiers from land in a fair manner, while recognising the right of land owners to apply to a court for an eviction order in appropriate circumstances;
  • special consideration should be given to the rights of the elderly, children, disabled persons and particularly households headed by women, and that it should be recognised that the needs of those groups should be considered;

Procedure regarding evictions in terms of the PIE Act:

  1. According to the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), to cancel a fixed-term lease you must give the tenant at least 20 business days’ notice to rectify a material breach of the lease, failing which the lease will be cancelled.
  2. After 21 days, you can send the tenant a letter to cancel the lease. The letter should state that the tenant is now deemed to be occupying the property unlawfully and that he or she must vacate the premises by a specific date.
  3. If the tenant/occupier has not left the premises by the date mentioned in the letter of cancellation, then your lawyer can lodge an eviction application, which includes seeking the court’s permission to serve a notice of motion on the occupier.

References:

  • Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (No. 19 of 1998), South Africa
  • “How to evict a tenant (lawfully)”, Mark Bechard, Personal Finance, IOL. https://www.iol.co.za/personal-finance/how-to-evict-a-tenant-lawfully-2059984

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)