State protected in small claims courts

Small Claims Court South Africa

legalSmall Claims Courts Act to be changed….

A proposed Bill, the Small Claims Courts Amendment Bill, will re-define what is meant by “the state”  by including all three tiers of government and all state employees, whereas it did not before.   Also, it will also protect employees of the state against any actions that may be brought against employees through the small claims court legal process for third party liability whilst on state duties.


The background to the draft Bill makes it clear that the proposals will not prevent any action against the state in terms of normal legal process but only prevents a party from bringing such action in a small claims court.

Draft out for public comment

The Bill, shortly to be tabled in Parliament after a period of public comment notes as a background that small claims courts were established in terms of the Small Claims Courts Act to provide an inexpensive and accessible adjudication forum to individuals in respect of relatively small monetary claims that are not of a complex nature.

The maximum amount of a claim in a small claims court is presently fixed at R15,000.

Small claims courts are presided over by commissioners, appointed mostly from the ranks legal practitioners who deliver such a service free of charge. Legal representation is not allowed in a small claims court and a judgment of the court is final and cannot be appealed against.

Motor accidents

It would appear that recently claims in small claims courts have been made against state employees in their personal capacity for acts or omissions performed while on official duty including, in one case, a claim against a state employees for damages arising from a car accident whilst on state duty.

The overall principle behind the Bill is therefore to protect employees of the state from actions in the small claims court by stating any actions “against functionaries or employees of the State, in their personal capacity, in respect of their acts or omissions in the course of performing their official duties.”


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