High Court of South Africa, Eastern Cape Division: In a landmark judgment delivered by M.J. Lowe J., in the case of a minor being attacked by dog and claiming compensation in that reference, the High Court granted compensation.
The minor was below the age of 10 years and was attacked by the dog owned by the defendant while sitting on the brick wall separating the two properties. In a statement by defendant it was stated on his part that he had earlier warned the minor to not climb the wall in his absence showing his concern to not be able to control the dog (Bull Mastiff).
The Court analysed the case by discussing the points of law thoroughly. To start with “The Law of Delict in South Africa” wherein it has been explained, “the actio de pauperie for harm caused by domestic animals” in which owner of a domestic animal is strictly liable for the harm caused to another person in contradiction to its nature. For the said act the owner of the animal who had caused injury or damage will be liable. Liability under this point of law “actio de pauperie” would apply only when the animal must have acted “contra naturam sui generis.” The interpretation of “contra naturam” rule is wide in nature and suitability to the case.
The Court further dealt with the issue of provocation in which it was observed that on record there was nothing to indicate in the behaviour of the minor that constituted to any particular external stimuli for the dog to act “contra naturam”. Though, on the other hand it was also analysed by the Court that any reasonable dog would not have attacked a child simply on his climbing the boundary wall, which clearly puts the dog into the arena of acting “contra naturam”. Further it was also stated that the action of “actua de pauparie” is a special action limited to those who are lawfully on the defendant’s land when bitten and dealing with the present case, it was held that the child has a “pauperian” claim even if found without direct lawful entitlement. [Phildentia Kohl v. Charl Grobbelaar; Case No. 4962/2017; dated 22.05.2018]