The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) has recently dismissed an application by a Limpopo man who sought to claim R2.8 million from the local municipality. The man, Hulisani Viccel Sithangu, alleged that firefighters had cut his heel fat pad while rescuing him from a car wreck.
However, the court ruled that Sithangu failed to provide sufficient evidence to support his claim.
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The incident occurred in October 2014 when Sithangu collided with a cow while driving a minibus in Polokwane. Trapped in the wreckage, he remained stuck for over an hour, experiencing excruciating pain. Firefighters were called to the scene and used the jaws of life to extricate him from the vehicle.
Sithangu testified that he warned the firefighters to be careful and not to touch his right leg, as it was not numb. Despite his instructions, he claimed that they touched it anyway. Only after the rescue operation did he realize that his right heel was badly injured when the hospital staff removed the wound dressing.
Following his release from the hospital, Sithangu filed a delictual claim against Capricorn District Municipality, alleging that the firefighters had caused the open fracture on his right heel fat pad. The municipality, however, argued that the accident occurred outside its area of authority and operation, placing the responsibility on the Polokwane Local Municipality.
The Limpopo High Court dismissed Sithangu’s claim, citing insufficiently reliable evidence. The court stated that Sithangu had failed to prove the identity of the firefighters who attended to him.
Dissatisfied with the ruling, Sithangu appealed the decision, leading to the case being heard by the Supreme Court of Appeal. Judge Dumisani Zondi, presiding over the appeal, found Sithangu’s assumptions to be flawed.
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Sithangu had stated that his right leg was not numb, making it improbable that he would not have been aware when the firefighters cut his heel fat pad. Additionally, in his statement to the police, Sithangu did not blame the firefighters for some of the injuries he sustained at the scene.
Consequently, Judge Zondi concluded that Sithangu failed to meet the burden of proof required to establish that the injury to his right heel fat pad was caused by the municipality’s firefighters and not by the accident itself. As a result, the Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed Sithangu’s application.
While this ruling may be disappointing for Sithangu, it highlights the importance of providing substantial evidence in legal claims. Without clear and convincing proof, it becomes challenging to establish liability and secure compensation.
It is crucial for individuals involved in accidents to gather as much evidence as possible, including witness statements, medical records, and photographs. This evidence can significantly strengthen their case and increase their chances of a successful claim.
Furthermore, it is essential to identify the correct party to sue when seeking compensation. In Sithangu’s case, the municipality successfully argued that it was not responsible for the accident site, emphasizing the importance of accurately determining liability.
While accidents can result in severe injuries and significant financial losses, pursuing legal action requires careful consideration and diligent preparation. Consulting with legal professionals can provide valuable guidance and support throughout the process.
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