n Obiter - (Mis)understanding the once-and-for-all rule - Member of The Executive Council for Health and Social Development, Gauteng v DZ obo WZ 2018 (1) SA 335 (CC) - cases

Volume 40 Number 3
  • ISSN : 1682-5853


The “once-and-for-all” rule (OAFA rule) originated in English law. (For a detailed exposition of the historical development of this rule, see Van der Walt Die Sommeskadeleer en die “Once and for All” Reel” (unpublished doctoral thesis, University of South Africa) 1977.) It has been part of our law for the better part of a century (see discussion below). This rule entails that a plaintiff may not bring more than one action for damages, insofar as this action is based on the same cause of action (Potgieter, Steynberg and Floyd Visser and Potgieter: Law of Damages 3ed (2013) 153). The rule has particular significance for prospective loss because where a prospective loss is based on the same cause of action as past loss, the claim for the prospective loss has to be brought at the same time as the claim for past loss (Evins v Shield Insurance Co Ltd 1980 (2) SA 814 (A) (Evins v Shield Insurance). It stands to reason, therefore, that a claim cannot be instituted too soon because the damage arising from the delictual conduct has to be assessed properly. On the other hand, because all delictual claims prescribe after three years, the action for damages has to be brought before three years have passed (Evins v Shield Insurance supra; see also Potgieter et al Visser and Potgieter: Law of Damages 155 and further). Between the OAFA rule and the prescription of a delictual claim, there is not much opportunity for a plaintiff to become aware of the true extent of his or her future loss.

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