In the case Govender v Salgados Fruiters T/A Lyndhurst Food Basket And Another 2009 (9) SA500 (hereafter referred to as the “case”) the facts were as follows:
The Claimant visited the Defendant’s shop as a client. While he was busy shopping, an attempted robbery took place in the shop. The robber asked the shop’s teller to remove the money from the till, but the teller refused. The Claimant was subsequently shot by the robber.
The Claimant approached the court with a claim for damages against the Defendant. According to the Claimant, it was the Defendant’s duty to ensure that he, the Claimant, was safe and protected when visiting the Defendant’s shop. The Claimant furthermore argued that the negligence of the teller to hand over the money on demand by the robber, had led to his being shot. In other words: Had the teller, who was an employee of the Defendant, handed over the money when the robber demanded it, the robber would not have shot the Claimant.
The court however found that neither the Defendant nor his employee acted negligently under the circumstances. The causal link between the employee and the Defendant which was referred to, was also not duly proven by the Claimant. With regard to the question as to whether the Defendant had a duty to see to it that the Claimant was safe in his shop, i.e. the obligation to prevent any damages being caused to clients by immediately handing over the money when the robber demanded it, the court delivered the following comments:
“… to extend the duty of care in such circumstances would make life in this country unbearable and cast too wide a duty on shop owners and occupiers. A majority of banks and shops have experienced a spate of unprecedented armed robberies, and to expect them to comply with unlawful demands of armed robbers would be casting the duty too wide and was impractical.”
The court therefore was of the opinion that the duty of shop owners cannot be extended so far as to expect of them to have to ensure the safety of their clients. We live in a country where robberies take place daily and it would be unreasonable and impractical to expect of every shop and undertaking that they have to ensure your safety the minute you enter their premises.
The court rejected the claim for damages. This is good news for all shop owners and alleviates their duty towards their clients.