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November 21, 2005

Woman successfully challenges Matrimonial Property Act

The Cape High Court recently handed down a ruling in favour of a woman who challenged the constitutional validity of a section of the Matrimonial Property Act. Vanessa van der Merwe went to court after the Road Accident Fund refused to pay damages in an accident claim. Van der Merwe had claimed after her former husband ran over her twice in his car in 1999, reports Business Day. The fund disputed its liability because an injured person, married in community of property, may not sue for damages arising from an offence that a spouse has committed. Van der Merwe argued in court the section infringed her right to equality contained in the Constitution. The section applies only to people married in community of property. Acting Judge Thandazwa Ndita ruled in September that by use of the words ‘other than damages for patrimonial loss’, the section unfairly discriminated on the grounds of marital status against spouses married in community of property. Patrimonial loss covers the loss of income and income-earning capacity, and medical expenses she had to incur because of her injuries.

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