Recent case law emphasises proper procedure for Anton Piller applications

anton piller
21 Apr 2023

What is an Anton Piller application? 

An Anton Piller application is a legal remedy that allows a plaintiff to obtain an order allowing the plaintiff to enter a defendant’s premises to search for and seize evidence that may be crucial to the case. The Anton Piller application is considered highly invasive in nature because it allows the plaintiff to enter the defendant’s premises and search for and seize evidence without giving the defendant any form of prior notice or an opportunity to object, so it is done on an Ex Parte basis. This type of application is typically used in cases of intellectual property theft or breach of confidentiality where time is of the essence, and there is a risk that the defendant may destroy or hide evidence if notice of the application is given.

However, the invasive nature of the Anton Piller application means that it carries a risk of infringing on the defendant’s rights. If not properly conducted, the application can result in the plaintiff overstepping the bounds of what is necessary to obtain evidence, and potentially seizing items that are not relevant to the case or protected by legal privilege. For this reason, Anton Piller applications are subject to strict procedural requirements, and courts will carefully scrutinise them to ensure that the defendant’s rights are protected.

How does recent case law address the invasive nature of the application?

Recent case law in South Africa has highlighted the importance of ensuring that Anton Piller applications are properly conducted in order to avoid infringing the rights of the defendant. In the case of Channel Life Ltd v Frittelli and Others (2001) 3 SA 845 (W), the court stressed the need for a clear and specific description of the items to be searched for and seized, as well as the importance of appointing an independent supervising attorney to oversee the search and seizure process. Similarly, in the case of Media 24 Ltd v National Director of Public Prosecutions and Others (2012) ZASCA 7, the court emphasised the need for a careful balancing of the interests of the plaintiff and the defendant, and the importance of ensuring that the application is not used as a tool for fishing expeditions or harassment of the defendant.

Written by Yasmina Griesel, senior candidate attorney at SchoemanLaw Inc.

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(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
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