The Loureiro family of Johannesburg had 24-hour armed security at their home provided by iMvula Quality Protection at the time.
Licinio Loureiro had an oral agreement with iMvula not to allow anyone onto the premises without his prior authorisation.
In January 2009, robbers pretending to be police officers approached the home and demanded entry.
The iMvula’s security guard on duty could not communicate over the intercom with the men and he opened the pedestrian gate without first checking their identity.
The robbers overpowered the Loureiro family and their staff and stole items worth millions.
The Loureiro family won a claim in the High Court, which held iMvula contractually and delictually liable.
On appeal, a majority of the Supreme Court of Appeal overturned the High Court’s decision, while a minority would have upheld it.
In a unanimous judgment, the Constitutional Court found in favour of the Loureiro family.
The Court held iMvula was liable for breach of contract.
It found by allowing access to the imposters, a strict term of the contract was contravened.
The Court found, in its conclusion on wrongfulness, the majority in the Supreme Court of Appeal failed to have regard to weighty normative and constitutional considerations.
It further held there was a great public interest in ensuring that private security companies and their guards, in taking on the remunerated role of crime prevention, succeed in thwarting avoidable harm.
The matter would now return to the High Court for a decision on the amount of the claim.