Judge slams greed in accident claim

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By LOUISE FLANAGAN

Johannesburg - A Joburg judge has slammed lawyers involved in a Road Accident Fund (RAF) claim, saying the case was brought solely to enrich lawyers and “experts”.

“There never was any ‘serious injury’ sustained by this road accident victim,” said Judge Kathleen Satchwell of the Johannesburg High Court.

She called the behaviour of “facilitators” to RAF benefits in general “predatory” and said the case was not unusual.

Musejei Motswai was a pedestrian who sprained his ankle in a motor vehicle accident in August 2008 in Soweto. But a claim was filed on his behalf for R390 000, claiming severe injuries for a fractured ankle.

“The attorney signed particulars of a claim founded upon an injury which the hospital records clearly indicated had never existed and had been excluded by hospital investigation. “This was dishonest litigation,” said Judge Satchwell.

She said the RAF system was supposed to protect those who suffered misfortune.

“Instead the current practice of road accident compensation is both perceived by and utilised as a means of providing a livelihood for administrators, attorneys, advocates and professional experts. The claim and litigation in this matter has been for the sole benefit and enrichment of ‘facilitators’ of access to road accident compensation,” she said.

The case was settled without any compensation being paid to Motswai.

“Settlement only took place on the day set down for trial within the doors of the court.

“The only issue was to ensure payment of costs of the plaintiff’s attorney and defendant’s administrators and attorney, plaintiff’s counsel and defendant’s counsel, plaintiff’s medical and other ‘experts’ and defendant’s medical and other ‘experts’,” said Judge Satchwell.

“In short, no quantifiable damages or loss was ever sustained as a result of a road accident, but costs have been incurred for the benefit of all those who feed off road accident victims.”

The judgment lists Motswai’s legal team as advocate C Pottinger, instructed by Wim Krynauw Attorneys, and the RAF’s as advocate TC Tshidada, instructed by attorneys Sishi Incorporated.

Judge Satchwell ordered her judgment, delivered on Friday, to be sent to the Law Society, the Bar Council, the RAF chairperson, the minister of transport and the Health Professions Council of South Africa. She said neither set of attorneys should get any fees for the case and they should pay the experts themselves, but allowed them to argue on this issue at a later hearing.

The judge ordered that the advocates be paid on a magistrate’s court scale of fees rather than the high court scale.

“I do not know what advice, if any, was given by counsel to their attorneys,” said Judge Satchwell.

She ordered that the RAF pay 80 percent of Motswai’s “agreed or proven” damages and 80 percent of his medical costs, but only “after such costs have been incurred and upon proof thereof”.

She also ordered both sets of attorneys to provide the court with copies of invoices and statements for the fees for the advocates and the “experts”, and proof of all those payments.

louise.flanagan@inl.co.za

The Star

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