The Supreme Court has ordered Silver Star Auto Limited to deliver a brand new Mercedes Ben (E Class) to G.A. Sarpong & Co, a firm of legal practitioners and consultants headed by former Law School boss, George A. Sarpong.
The five-member panel, presided over by Justice Julius Ansah, held that G.A. Sarpong & Co had been able to discharge the burden of proof that the vehicle it bought from Silver Star Auto Limited had latent defects and deserved to be replaced.
The case, which started in 2009 at an Accra Commercial Court, was filed by the law firm after a brand new Mercedes Benz (C-Class 180) it bought from the car dealer in 2007 had broken down suddenly in May 2008 and was replaced with another – E-Class with registration number GN 2266 Y at the cost of 15,000 Euros – which also broke down in December that same year.
The plaintiff therefore claimed among others things, a brand new E-Class Mercedes Benz as replacement or a refund of the purchase price of the vehicle as well as compensation for loss for his inability to use the vehicles and damages for breach of condition/ deceit.
Silver Star Auto Limited (respondent), in its amended statement of defence filed on October 19, 2009, denied the plaintiff’s claims and insisted that the cause of the accident was attributable to the May 2009 incident.
They argued that G.A. Sarpong & Co was not entitled to any claim as endorsed in the writ of summons and had urged the court to dismiss the plaintiff’s suit.
However, after full trial, the Commercial Court held that G.A. Sarpong & Co was entitled to a delivery of a brand new E-Class as replacement for the damaged car, but refused to grant the claim for compensation and damages for breach of condition/deceit.
Not satisfied, Silver Star Auto Limited appealed against the decision at the Court of Appeal and succeeded in getting the appellate court to review the High Court’s decision by ordering the car dealer to only replace the damaged engine for G.A. Sarpong & Co and not the whole vehicle.
G.A. Sarpong & Co got incensed and petitioned the Supreme Court on the grounds that the Court of Appeal had erred in holding that he was not entitled to a brand-new E-Class.
The panel, which included Justices Rose Owusu, K. Anin Yeboah, P. Baffoe Bonnie and J.B. Akamba, took time to review the matter and see whether there was latent defects in the vehicle as well as whether there was a breach of the Sale of Goods Act, 1962.
The panel also considered the fundamental obligation of the seller and the issue of quality and fitness of goods.
The highest court held that both the trial and appellate courts had agreed on the type of breach of contract as a condition between the parties after G.A. Sarpong & Co was able to discharge its burden of proof.
‘It is settled law that an appellate court ought not to disturb concurrent findings of fact by two lower courts unless the findings were perverse. Where the Court of Appeal agreed with the lower court that the breach was not of a trivial nature, it could only vary the award of damages where it was manifestly perverse,’ the Supreme Court indicated adding, ‘where they have not found any legal basis for altering the damages awarded by the court of first instance, it was not open to the Court of Appeal to vary the damages awarded.’
The Supreme Court accordingly passed its judgement.
By William Yaw Owusu
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