A widow with three children is one step closer to getting the compensation she deserves from the Road Accident Fund (RAF).
In response to an appeal lodged by DSC Attorneys, a full bench of the Western Cape High Court overturned an earlier court decision, supporting the RAF’s rejection of the claim.
As basis for rejecting the claim, the RAF argued that the vehicle that fatally injured Thandiswa Linah Mbete’s common law husband, Simpiwe Robert Makutoana, was not a motor vehicle as defined under the Road Accident Fund Act, 56 of 1996.
Facts behind the damages claim for loss of support
In February 2010, the appellant’s husband was knocked down by a heavy industrial vehicle, known as a reach stacker or lift truck. At the time, he was working as a stevedore at the Multipurpose Terminal in the Cape Town harbour.
Tragically, Simpiwe Robert Makutoana later died of the injuries he sustained.
Following the tragedy, and after consulting with a representative of DSC Attorneys, the widow was advised to sue the RAF for damages. At the heart of the claim was the allegation that the deceased died as a result of the negligence of the driver of the vehicle.
A claim of damages for loss of support was duly lodged on Ms Mbete’s behalf.
The RAF disputed the claim on the grounds that the reach stacker was not a motor vehicle as determined by the Act. The matter was escalated to court, and in November 2017 a judge ruled in favour of the RAF.
Why the High Court overturned the decision
On instruction from their client, DSC Attorneys lodged a successful appeal with the Western Cape High Court.
In the judgement handed down by Judge Patrick Gamble in February 2019, the Court concluded that the reach stacker in question was, indeed, a motor vehicle as defined by the Act.
The Act specifies that, “…any vehicle designed or adapted for propulsion or haulage on a road by means of fuel, gas or electricity, including a trailer, caravan, an agricultural, or any, implement designed or adapted to be drawn by a motor vehicle.’’
The Court pointed out that a reach stacker is self-propelled by a 12-litre diesel engine, an automatic gearbox and six wheels, and is licensed to operate on any public road. It is also required to travel on public and other statutory roads in the course of carrying out its task; that of lifting and loading shipping containers onto vessels.
The win on appeal is just one victory in a longer battle, with the RAF indicating it will be appealing the High Court’s Full Bench decision. Almost a decade after losing her husband, Thandiswa Linah Mbete, and her children, will have to wait a little longer for justice to run its full course.
How DSC Attorneys can help
At DSC Attorneys, we specialise in road accident claims. Our personal injury attorneys and medico-legal team can assess your claim, help prepare supporting evidence and represent you in legal proceedings, giving you the best chance of receiving the compensation you deserve. We work on a no win, no fee basis.