In a recent High Court case the court had a look at claims regarding financial loss and impairment of dignity of the one party. In this matter, being the Plaintiff was a lady that claimed for misrepresentation by the husband regarding intentions of marriage.
To make it easier I will refer to the lady as the Plaintiff and the man as the Defendant.
Before getting married the parties was in a romantic relationship for a time period of 2 years and 8 months during which time the Defendant expressed his love for the Plaintiff by his conduct and also verbally. The Defendant proposed to the Plaintiff on 15 September 2018. Due to the fact that the Plaintiff believed that the Defendant loved her, because of his actions and verbal expressions indicating he wanted to spend his life with her over the time period they where in a relationship, she said yes.
The 2 got married and the Plaintiff spent money on the wedding in the amount of R331 342.00. Unfortunately the marriage was short lived as within in a week after the marriage the Defendant started acting in an insulting and denigrating way towards the Plaintiff and seems he acted intentionally, as he asked her to leave the matrimonial home. Due to the fact that this happened inonly one week after they got married it was very strange to the Plaintiff.
The Plaintiff then discovered that the Defendant proposed marriage to her while at that time he already considered that their romantic relationship had broken down irretrievably. He failed to disclose this to her and therefor she is claiming that due to his fraudulent misrepresentation he intentionally induced her into marrying him, herself thinking they were in love and this is forever.
Let’s have a look at what she claimed.
- She claimed damages for the wasted costs associated with the wedding, which she would not have incurred, knowing that the marriage would only last a week and if she knew the Defendant misrepresented his feelings towards her.
- She further made a claim for the impairment of her dignity and reputation arising form the conduct and circumstances and due to the fact that the circumstances became public knowledge among both of their personal social groups.
The Defendant raised 9 exceptions towards the claims. In the court case it was distilled into 2 objections.
The magistrate had to decide if a claim for waisted costs that flowed from this conduct in issue, could reasonably impose a liability on the Defendant and if damages can be granted as claimed by the Plaintiff.
Our law is generally reluctant to recognize claims of this nature due to the fact that this can cause a great deal of increase of claims of this nature which will result in extending the law of delict for claims too freely recognized. Due to our laws including divorce and dissolving of a marriage, all parties entering into a marriage understand the risks and that there are no guarantees.
Further hereto the magistrate also had a look at the fact that the Plaintiff had choices incurring the debt as to if she will pay and to which extent and what to spend on such wedding. To allow this kind of litigation can potentially cause insecurity into the operation of the property regime of parties getting married.
The court in this matter made a ruling that the claim for patrimonial damages in this case due to financial loss for money spent on the wedding by the Plaintiff cannot be claimed, BUT that she can proceed with the claim regarding impairment of her dignity of what transpired and especially pertinent to the impact of social media. We are in a time where it is important to note that there is a large potential for profound and widespread abuse of the dignity of partners in a romantic relationship due to the effect of increasing exposure on social media. The Plaintiff can therefor proceed with the general damages claim regarding impairment of her dignity and reputation as a result of the actions of the Defendant.
We will be on the lookout for the final ruling in this matter regarding this issue of dignity in these circumstances and if the claim succeeds, the damage payable and how it is calculated.
Recources : TG vs WC High Court of South Africa Gauteng. Pending matter with case number 3198/2019