Civil litigation is the term used to describe the legal process for resolving non-criminal disputes between individuals, organisations or government entities in court. The litigation process involves a series of steps, including filing a complaint, serving the defendant, exchanging information, and possibly going to trial if the case isn’t settled or dismissed. Simply put, the goal of civil litigation is to find a legal remedy for a wrong or enforce a right. This article takes a look at the most common types of civil disputes to help you better understand South Africa’s legal landscape and the available legal remedies.


Contract Breaches

1. Employment Contracts

Employment disputes are among the most common types of contract breaches in South Africa. These can arise from issues such as unfair dismissal, discrimination in the workplace or breaches of employment terms. Employees and employers often find themselves at odds over the interpretation and implementation of contract clauses, leading to legal action.

2. Sale of Goods and Services

Another industry that garners frequent contract litigation involves the sale of goods and services. Disputes can occur when one party fails to deliver the promised goods or services, or when the goods delivered are defective or not as advertised. In these cases, the aggrieved party may seek compensation or specific arrangements to rectify the situation.

3. Lease Agreements

Disagreements over rental contracts are common around the world. Landlords and tenants might clash over rental terms, maintenance responsibilities or eviction terms. These disputes can escalate to court cases where the terms of the lease are scrutinised to reach a judgment.


Property Disputes

1. Boundary Disputes

Boundary disputes occur when there is a disagreement over the property lines between two adjacent properties. These cases often require detailed surveys and the interpretation of historical property documents to resolve.

2. Land Ownership and Title Disputes

Ownership conflicts arise when there is a question about who holds the legal title to a certain property. These cases can be particularly complex, involving issues such as adverse possession, inheritance claims and title transfers.

3. Easements and Rights of Way

Disputes over easements and rights of way can also lead to litigation if parties fail to resolve issues between themselves. These involve the right to use another person's land for a specific purpose, such as access to a public road. When property owners disagree on the terms or existence of these rights, legal intervention may be the only way to resolve a dispute.


Personal Injury Claims

1. Motor Vehicle Accidents

Motor vehicle accidents lead to many personal injury claims in South Africa every year. Victims of road accidents often seek compensation for medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering. These cases can involve complex determinations of fault and an evaluation of the extent of injuries sustained.

2. Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice claims arise when a healthcare professional's negligence results in harm to a patient. These cases can be particularly challenging, requiring expert testimony to establish the standard of care and prove that it was breached.

3. Workplace Injuries

Workplace injuries can also lead to personal injury claims. Employees injured on the job may seek compensation from their employers for medical costs, rehabilitation and lost income. These cases often involve the interpretation of occupational health and safety regulations.



Defamation cases involve false statements made about an individual or organisation that harm their reputation. Defamation can be classified as either libel (written defamation) or slander (spoken defamation). Victims of defamation can seek damages to compensate for the harm done to their reputation or their business. Proving a defamation case typically requires demonstrating that the statement was false, damaging and made with a certain level of intent or negligence. Legal remedies can include monetary compensation, retractions and injunctions to prevent further defamatory statements.

If you find yourself involved in a civil dispute, don't hesitate to contact Cawood Attorneys. Consult with one of our knowledgeable attorneys, who can provide you with the expertise and support you need. Civil litigation can be complex and time-consuming, but with the right legal assistance, you can navigate the process with more peace of mind.

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