Justice statue and law books on a desk

Mr Bell was employed as a baggage controller by a company based at Cape Town International Airport, transferring luggage containers to and from aircraft. In 1994 he was involved in a collision with a so-called “flatbed transporter” within the operational area of the airport, as a result of which he sustained serious injuries. The Road Accident Fund raised a special plea that the flatbed transporter – which was a self-propelled vehicle specifically designed for the transportation of baggage and cargo within the confines of the airport – was not a “motor vehicle” as defined in the then applicable legislation, being the Multilateral Motor Vehicle Accidents Fund Act, as it was not designed for propulsion on a public road.

The trial court found in the RAF’s favour, upholding its special plea, and the plaintiff appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeal with the trial court’s leave.

The Full Bench of the SCA upheld the appeal, finding in Mr Bell’s favour, holding that the issue for determination was whether the definition of motor vehicle in the statute required that a vehicle be designed for propulsion on a public road. The court held that it was clearly not the intention of the Legislature to limit the word “road” in the definition to “public road”, and that there was no reason that the word should not bear its ordinary meaning, namely “a line of communication, especially a specially prepared track between places for use by pedestrians, riders and vehicles”.

For a copy of the full judgment click here.

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