THE Grahamstown High Court yesterday set aside a "grossly exorbitant and unconscionable” fee agreement that allowed a Queenstown attorney to take 84% of a disabled client’s Road Accident Fund (RAF) damages award as his fee.
Queenstown lawyer Milile Mpambaniso charged Ngubuzayo Dumse, 64, from Lady Frere, more than R690000 for representing him in an RAF damages claim in which Dumse was awarded R787000.
Dumse was left disfigured and disabled in an accident between Cradock and Cookhouse in 2003. His right leg was amputated below the knee.
Judge John Smith yesterday set aside the fee agreement which he said had resulted in fees that were grossly exorbitant, unconscionable and against public policy. He said the fees charged by Mpambaniso had been about 1000% more than the usual party-and-party fees.
Mpambaniso had charged R9145 to travel to Grahamstown to have summons issued and a further R11615 to issue a subpoena in Grahamstown. He had charged a further R44000 to attend two pre-trial consultations.
Grahamstown legal cost consultant Mark Bowles had assessed the bill and come to the conclusion the fees and disbursements alone had been over- charged to the tune of R362147.
Judge Smith said a contract was unenforceable if it offended public policy and good morals, as this one did.
He set aside the fee agreement. He also awarded punitive legal costs on an attorney and client scale against Mpambaniso, whose conduct he said was deserving of censure.