Mano et Mano v Nationwide Airlines (Pty) Ltd and Others

Supreme Court of Appeal -606/05 Hearing date: 20 November 2006
  Judgment date: 30 November 2006

Agent's claim for commission arising from the sale of two Boeing 737-200 aircraft - first sale falling through because aircraft sold to rival purchaser - aircraft again put on market following cancellation of sale - imminent change in aviation regulations dictating new need for aircraft purchases - observing advertisement for same aircraft in trade journal - negotiating sale directly with seller - agent not effective cause of sale of aircraft.

Media Summary of Judgment

Early in 1999 the appellant, an aircraft broker, put the respondent, a local airline in touch with El Al Israel airlines that had two Boeing 737-200's for sale. Negotiations between El Al and Nationwide followed on the introduction by the appellant but in June 1999 El Al sold the aircraft to another purchaser which had offered a better price.

As it happened, the sale to the second purchaser collapsed during November 1999 but in the meantime Nationwide having acquired two Boeing aircraft from another airline was no longer interested in buying any aircraft at that stage and did not know or care what had become of the El Al Boeings.

Early in 2000, the South African civil aviation authorities envisaged new regulations with regard to drop-down oxygen masks in aircraft cabins: aeroplanes without them would not be permitted to fly above a ceiling of 20 000ft.

Nationwide's BAC 111 aircraft could not be converted to comply with the proposed new regulations and since it was uneconomical to operate them below a ceiling of 20 000 ft it was decided to replace them as a matter of urgency.

Due to this unexpected development, Nationwide was now in the market for aircraft once again and discovered through a trade magazine that the two El Al aircraft were once again for sale. El Al was contacted and the two aircraft were purchased.

When the appellant got to hear of the deal, it claimed that it was entitled to the commission it had originally agreed with Nationwide because, so it said, despite the intervening events and the lapse of time it was still the effective cause of the sale.

The trail court having found in favour of the appellant, a full bench of that court reversed the decision, holding that it could not be said that the agent's efforts had been the effective cause of the sale. In a further appeal to this court, it was held that the full court had been correct in its assessment and that the appellant was not entitled to commission. The appeal was dismissed.