Lawyers pay client what is due to her

Thuli Zungu Consumer Line
Charlotte Mabila of Mosterloos in Limpopo is happy that she has now been paid her outstanding R91,113 after she was overcharged by a law firm.
Charlotte Mabila of Mosterloos in Limpopo is happy that she has now been paid her outstanding R91,113 after she was overcharged by a law firm.
Image: Supplied

A law firm that was accused of overcharging its client has now done the honourable thing and paid what is due.

SB Ngento Incorporated paid Charlotte Mabila R91,113 last Monday following an article published on August 7 in which Consumer Line highlighted her plight.

Mabila, 50, of Mosterloos near Groblersdal in Limpopo, called Consumer Line on Monday afternoon to confirm she had been paid the outstanding amount she was overcharged.

She said she and her attorney did not spend more than five minutes together on Monday. "He just told me he wants to keep his clients happy, and we signed a document confirming I have been paid and parted ways," Mabila said.

Mabila had accused the law firm of taking more than was legally allowed in terms of the Contingency Fee Act of 1997.

The act states that firms who act on a "no-win, no-fee" basis can take 25% of the settlement or charge twice the normal attorney-client fee, whichever is the lesser amount.

Mabila said her attorney charged her 50% legal fees even though they verbally agreed on the 25% contingency fee.

She was also made to sign an affidavit which states that she is still indebted to the attorney though party and party costs were paid by the Road Accident Fund (RAF), she said.

In the affidavit she signed, Mabila confirmed that she paid R200,000 towards her attorneys fee of R1,157,731, without being provided a bill of account, she said.

Mabila said she was coming from ephehlweni, (initiation to become a traditional healer) when a reckless driver collided with their stationary vehicle in 2015.

Eight initiates were injured and she was hospitalised for a month at Groblersdal Hospital.

After she was discharged from hospital she was later visited by agents of this law firm who said they would assist her to claim compensation from the RAF.

She was happy and co-operated when they sent her to different doctors to assess her injuries in order to quantify her damages.

Mabila said the accident left her right lung and breast damaged when they were pierced through and her right leg badly damaged, making it impossible for her to walk a long distance. Since then she has been unemployed as a result of her ill health, she said.

Her attorney lodged a successful claim and as a result the RAF agreed to pay compensation of R439,528 which was subsequently paid into the attorney's trust account in March this year, she said.

"The attorney did not disclose this and I later approached the RAF where they gave me a statement showing that it paid R841,763 on my claim," Mabila said.

For loss of earning and general damages the RAF paid R439,528; the rest was attorney and advocate fees, medical costs and other necessary costs, she said.

Mabila said The attorney still denied receipt of her money and only paid her a portion of it after she approached the Law Society.

"If he had expended R1,159,731 on me why did he not claim this from the RAF rather than to make me liable for it?"

The agreement of fees between the attorney and Mabila she signed on July 1 this year.

However, the act states this must be done before the matter goes to court and be made an order of the court when settlement is made, she said.

The act further states that a client must also have a proper understanding of the financial implications of the agreement.

This can only be achieved if before signature the parties agree on a number of issues, including the manner in which disbursements made or incurred by the legal practitioner on behalf of the client are to be dealt with.

Mabila said she was never given the opportunity to read the attorney fee agreement as the attorney only drew it up after all the processes were completed and a complaint lodged with the Law Society.

Her worries are now over as she was paid the 25% she claimed was overcharged.

Mabila said she will invest a portion of her payout and complete the renovation of her grandmother's house where she stays.

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