In the matter of The Member of the Executive Council for Transport for the Province of Kwazulu-Natal v John Murray Eastman & 2 Others the Supreme Court of Appeal dealt with an appeal from the Kwazulu- Natal High Court (Pietermaritzburg). 

The matter related to a claim for damages instituted against the Appellant by the First, Second and Third Respondents flowing from a motor vehicle collision which occurred when a motor vehicle driven at the time by the Third Respondent (who was the First Defendant in the main action) left a roadway and landed in a culvert, causing serious injuries to the First and Second Respondents (who were passengers in the vehicle and were the Plaintiffs in the main action).  

The basis of the First and Second Respondents’ claims against the Third Respondent was that the accident was due to his negligence in a number of respects relating to the manner in which he was driving immediately prior to the accident.  The basis for the First and Second Respondents’ claims against the Appellant (the Second Defendant in the main action) was that the MEC’s employees had been negligent in that they had failed in their legal duty to properly maintain the roads under his control, which included the specific road on which they had been travelling at the time of the collision.  Specifically it was alleged that the employees of the MEC were aware that the road in question became extremely slippery during inclement weather and that a dangerous donga existed next to the road.  The First and Second Respondent alleged that the MEC’s employees not only failed to properly maintain the road, causing it to become extremely dangerous when wet but also failed to erect signs warning of the state of the road and a barrier to prevent vehicles from sliding into the donga.

In the Kwazulu-Natal High Court the Presiding Judge found in favour of the First and Second Respondents against both the Appellant as well as the Third Respondent and apportioned negligence between the two Defendants on the basis that the Third Respondent was liable for 30% of the First and Second Respondents’ proven damages and that the Appellant was liable for 70% of the value of the First and Second Respondents’ proved damages.

On appeal it was held that the evidence showed that speed was the sole cause of the accident and consequently the Third Respondent was held to be solely liable for the damages suffered as a result thereof.

For a full copy of the judgment of the Supreme Court of Appeal click here.