Webber Wentzel recently acted in a matter in which the North Gauteng High Court was asked to declare a settlement agreement to be both binding on and in the best interests of minor children.
The matter related to an airplane crash that had the potential of resulting in actions being instituted in multiple jurisdictions.
With specialist aviation plaintiff law firms, based in London and the USA, often being retained by victims of air crashes in Africa, it is becoming the norm for litigation to be threatened in multiple jurisdictions; including those that require "infant settlement approval".
The defendant and its insurers applied for the Court order to ensure that they could settle the claim once and for all and would not be involved again in such claims in other jurisdictions.
A High Court's jurisdiction to grant such an order was a contentious issue before the application was launched. The debate stems from the fact that the natural guardian and parent of a minor child has the necessary capacity to conclude the settlement agreement on the child's behalf and it is thus unnecessary to approach the Courts.
In this instance, it was argued that the while the parent has the legal capacity to conclude the settlement agreement, due to the position adopted by the defendant and insurers, she did not in fact have such capacity.
Based on this argument, the Court granted the order as requested.
Due to the risk of actions being instituted in multiple jurisdictions, the necessity for an order (as was obtained in this instance) should be a regular condition in any settlement agreement concluded. It is predicted that applications of this nature will as such become more common in the future.