Q. When a legal dispute crosses borders, which law will the magistrate, judge or arbitrator apply to the dispute?

A: It is important to understand that this is an additional question to the one of jurisdiction which we discussed last time. (Read it here.) So you could have a court case in Cape Town but the laws of the United States of America (USA) may be applicable. This may occur where you have not specified in your terms and conditions (T&C) which law applies. The court will then look at where the contract was signed. Even if the USA law applied is not that bad, you need to keep in mind that the legal costs will escalate as you will have to find lawyers who are familiar with the USA law! So it is clearly beneficial to specify in your T&C that South African law applies



DISCLAIMER: Each case depends on its own facts & merits. The above does not constitute advice. Independent advice should be obtained in all instances.

Have a legal question? Ask Louis-the-Lawyer!

Send your questions for Advocate Louis Nel to We will respond to all your questions even if it takes time and additional research, so please be patient. However we will give preference to the most pressing and commonly asked ones.