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The Equitable Doctrine Of Estoppel Should Only Be Invoked As A Shield And Not A Sword

Akkermans Industries Enginering V A.G Civil Appeal No. 88 Of 2009 [2019] Ugca 2019 In The Court Of Appeal Of Uganda

The Justices of the Court of Appeal; Hon. Justice Hellen Obura, Elizabeth Musoke & Egonda Ntende in their judgment delivered on the 19th September, 2019 discuss the equitable doctrine of estoppel.

This was a first Appeal from the Judgment of Hon. Justice Kiryabwire delivered on the 19th of January 2009 in the High Court of Uganda in a case where the Appellants entered into a contract with the government of Uganda to provide consultancy services and install machines at Makerere University and Kyambogo University accordingly. Under the contract, the Respondent was responsible for buying the equipment to be installed. The contract was to run for three months however, due to delay on the part of the Respondent to buy the equipment, the contract had to take more months than earlier planned. The issue in contention in this case was whether this amounts to an extension of the contract. The trial judge held that in interpretation of the initial contract, this did not amount to an extension of the contract since it lacked consent from the funders and held that the Appellant was entitled to ten (10%) of the handling fees. The Appellant appealed against this decision.

The justices of the Court of Appeal in dismissing this Appeal unanimously held that the equitable doctrine of estoppel should only be invoked as a shield and not a sword and therefore, it was not applicable under these circumstances. The Justices further held that quantum meruit as amount of recovery means as much as deserved and measures recovery under implied contracts to pay compensation as a reasonable value of services rendered.  They further stated that in computing the amount to be deemed as reasonable compensation for services rendered, Court ought to take into consideration the communication between the parties showing their intention and therefore under this case, the Appellant is entitled to a handling fee of 10% of the amount paid for the services rendered to the Respondent as reasonable.