Friday, March 2, 2007

It comes down to this

Seeing as how we are law students, it was inevitable that we would eventually have to learn something about South African law. In short, it is a hybrid of civil and common law, owing to the fact that this is both a Dutch and British colony. Procedure (criminal, civil, evidence, etc) follows the common law tradition, while the laws themselves are taken from civil law pre-codification (I'm not sure what this means, but it sounded important). There are exceptions, and some bodies of law such as corporations follows English law. Delict (dee-lickt) is essentially torts, but with an entirely different set of rules. Rather than following the negligence standard, the judge (there are no juries here, even for criminal cases) has a “smorgasbord” of liability rules to choose from, depending, it seems, on what they feel like. For example, the judge could choose the last person who could have avoided the harm to be “wrongful,” and they will have to pay the “quantum” the judge decides is appropriate. What makes the least sense is the traffic accident system. Rather than suing the person who injured you (who is off the hook, maybe why drivers here are so crazy), you have to sue a government fund for accidents, which is limited by statute to pay out up to R25,000 (about $3,500).

Now if only I could figure out how to research cases. 1995 (3) SA 786 (CC) anyone?

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