Law firm is 'insulting me'
Edeling Van Niekerk Attorneys are in the spotlight once again with a fourth road accident victim accusing them of placing her compensation into a trust fund as if she was a mentally disabled person.
Mamasala Sabadeur, 41, of Bohlokong, Bethlehem, in the Free State wrote to Consumer Line a week ago after reading last Monday's article about the plights of Motsamai Moloi, Nonceba Dlamini and Daisy Mokoena.
The Road Accident Fund compensated the trio a total amount of R3.7-million but they claimed they had not received a cent.
Sabadeur said she had not received her compensation although the law firm received it in August 2016. The mother of one, a general worker at Truida Kestell Primary, said she was on her way home when the vehicle she was travelling in had an accident in 2010.
"Although I hit the dashboard, leaving me with a scar on the nose, I did not suffer any brain damage to necessitate the formation of the trust for my daily upkeep," she said.
Sabadeur said she suffered hip and ribs injuries, and received a few stitches on her nose.
She was hospitalised for three days and her doctor booked her off for a month to allow her hip and chest to heal, she said.
She said she entered into a contingency agreement with Edeling Van Niekerk and agreed they would only take their legally permissible 25%. She was taken to a number of doctors for observation.
Sabadeur said no one told her what the purpose of establishing a trust was for or why she was declared mentally unfit.
Even when her money was paid, no one told her about it.
"I am gainfully employed. I can manage my finances without hassle. I feel insulted when told I am unable to do so," Sabadeur said.
RAF paid her R724410 and the law firm transferred R573174 to Uberrima Phoenix who manage her finances, Sabadeur said.
Leigh de Souza-Spagnoletti of Edeling Van Niekerk Attorneys said Mamasala Sabadeur sustained a depressed skull fracture and brain trauma.
She said the protection of funds issue was discussed with Sabadeur.
"She was notified of the terms of settlement prior to the settlement agreement being made an order of court."
She said she did not tell Sabadeur of the actions she was going to take because it is not unethical or inappropriate to finalise an action without taking instructions from the client.
"Sabadeur's partner advised our clinical psychologist that she had become impulsive postaccident, particularly when it came to spending money," said De Souza-Spagnoletti.
She said this is reported in the medico-legal reports tendered into evidence, adding that their experts were of the opinion that her money should be protected.
However, William Sabadeur, Mamasala's partner, denied speaking to their clinical psychologist. "That's a blue lie. I never spoke to them. I don't even know where their offices are situated," he said.
As regards to the administration of the trust, De Souza-Spagnoletti said she had requested Uberrima Phoenix to respond but they had not done so by the time of going to print.
Sowetan published two stories about motor vehicle accident victims who claim they were "duped" by their attorneys.
The victims claimed the law firm Edeling Van Niekerk placed the money they had received from the Road Accident Fund in a trust instead of paying it out to them.
Our reportage, however, contained some factual errors and we wrongly quoted the attorney at the law firm.
Documents shown to the Sowetan reveal that the trusts were established in terms of court orders issued on the recommendation of medical experts.
The documents also suggest that the law firm informed their clients of the need to place their monies in trust before the trusts were created.
Edeling Van Niekerk attorney Leigh De Souza-Spagnoletti was wrongly quoted in one of the stories as saying that it is acceptable for lawyers to finalise a claim without their client's knowledge.
In fact, she said exactly the opposite.
Our stories also did not adequately reflect the comment received from the law firm regarding the amounts of monies paid to the victims.
While the victims claimed they received only a portion of the monies awarded to them by the RAF, the law firm pointed out that the balance was paid into trusts created for the victims, or was in the process of being transferred.
"All monies due to Edeling Van Niekerk's clients were paid to them," Ms De Souza-Spagnoletti told Sowetan.
We apologise to Edeling Van Niekerk Attorneys for any embarrassment these errors may have caused.