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Body Corporate Neglects Scheme Upkeep: Responsible for Injury and Costs of Passers-by


Body Corporate Neglects Scheme Upkeep: Responsible for Injury and Costs of Passers-by

In the recent court case of Eze v Adderley Body Corporate and Another (2024), the court found that a piece of rotten wood dislodged from an overhanging balcony of a sectional title building and injured a passerby, costing the body corporate significantly more than anticipated.

This case serves as a wake-up call for trustees to properly fulfill their responsibility to keep the buildings in their scheme in good repair. Failure to do so can be deemed negligent and saddle the scheme with unexpected additional expenses.


Mr. Eze filed a personal injury lawsuit arising from an incident in March 2016. While walking on the pavement in Adderley Street, Cape Town, a piece of wood fell from the ceiling of a balcony overhanging the sidewalk (part of The Adderley, a sectional title scheme) and struck his left shoulder.

Although Mr. Eze did not witness the wood falling, all evidence pointed towards its origin being the balcony overhang. The building supervisor, called after the incident, suggested Mr. Eze seek medical attention and believed the wood had dislodged from the balcony. Both Mr. Eze and the supervisor stated the area was damp and used by nesting birds, a claim the body corporate and managing agent did not refute.

Mr. Eze argued that the body corporate and managing agent, responsible for maintaining the building, negligently failed to do so, leading to his injury. He presented two arguments:

  1. Negligence based on facts: The body corporate, as building owner, has a responsibility to maintain and repair the building to prevent harm to users and the public. Failure to do so constitutes negligence and liability for resulting damages.
  2. Res ipsa loquitur: The facts speak for themselves, inferring negligence without further evidence. In this case, the unusual occurrence of a falling object from a ceiling suggests negligence.

Court Decision:

Duty of Care:

  • The court recognized the potential safety risk posed by the overhanging balcony and established a duty of care towards the public, including Mr. Eze.

Causal Negligence:

  • The evidence indicated the body corporate and managing agent's awareness of the disrepair and failure to conduct repairs, constituting negligence, and establishing a causal connection to Mr. Eze's injury.

Duty of Care Revisited:

  • The court reiterated the legal obligation of a defendant controlling or managing a building to maintain it in a reasonably safe condition to prevent foreseeable injuries. The body corporate and managing agent, responsible for the building, undoubtedly had a duty to maintain its safe condition, including the overhang above the public pavement.

Negligence and/or Res Ipsa Loquitur:

  • While falling fruit from a tree may not be surprising, falling objects from ceilings rarely occur without negligence. "The presence of a hole in the ceiling and fall of rotten planks from the same hole do not occur in the absence of negligence," the court stated. Additionally, the defendants offered no rebuttal.


The court ruled in favour of Mr. Eze, explaining: "The condition of the ceiling significantly increased the risk of an accident, which wouldn't have happened with reasonable care from the defendants."

Author STBB Attorneys
Published 02 Feb 2024 / Views -
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