Client wants R648,000 from lawyer

18 September 2019 - 11:42
By AND Thuli Zungu
Karen Wheats wants money from her lawyer./ SUPPLIED
Karen Wheats wants money from her lawyer./ SUPPLIED

Attorneys have the duty to update their clients on the developments of their cases and to act in their best interest when handling their money or property.

However, Karen Wheats has accused Siphiwayinkosi Mchunu, of SSS Mchunu Attorneys, of keeping her in the dark for the past two months after he received her R648,000 settlement from the Road Accident Fund (RAF).

Wheats, 53, said the RAF offered her the accident settlement in November and she was told she would get it after six months which she found acceptable.

However, when the settlement was paid out her attorney did not disclose this to her until she made an inquiry at the RAF when she was told that it was paid on July 29, Wheats said.

"When Mchunu wanted a road accident victim he knew where to find me, but when he had to pay me he is playing hide and seek," Wheats said.

Wheats said after the RAF confirmed her payment into Mchunu's trust account she instantly called him to inquire about it and was given an excuse on why it had not been paid to her.

She said in most cases she would get a response after speaking to Mchunu's driver as he ignored her calls.

Wheats said after she was injured in October 2013 she was visited in hospital by an agent who claimed to be working for Mchunu.

She said his agent visited her twice and each time he would miss her as she would have been undergoing an X-ray.

His agent later followed her to her house after obtaining her details from her hospital file, Wheats said.

She further said that Mchunu's agent and his driver took her for further consultations.

"Communication went well until November last year then it stopped after Mchunu received payment from the RAF," Wheats said.

She said she expected the communication between her and Mchunu to continue but was surprised when Mchunu kept mum after receipt of her money.

The mother of three said she wanted to buy a prosthetic leg for her seven-year-old grandson.

Wheats said her grandson was born with no ankle bone and his left leg was later amputated.

Wheats said she needed R25,000 to get her grandson a prosthetic leg.

She said she decided to approach Consumer Line for assistance after Mchunu gave her a cheque with her name and surname incorrectly spelt.

The cheque was postdated and she only noticed it was incorrect when she tried to cash it.

"I was turned back and told it could not be cashed as it was not issued in my name," Wheats said.

"Soon thereafter it was a hassle to get Mchunu as he ignored my telephone calls. I really struggled to get hold of him," she said.

Recently, she has been communicating with Mchunu through his driver who was also giving her excuses for his boss, she said.

Wheats said she did not understand why she must now be kept tracing her attorney for her money when it should be the other way around.

"Lawyers have a fiduciary duty to act in their client's best interests and not conflict of interest when handling money or property that belongs to their clients," Wheats said.

Mchunu told Consumer Line he was not aware that Wheats's money had been paid until she informed him.

"We have requested her file from our tax consultant so that we have the correct amount and avoid misspelling her name and surname, also to enable her to sign the necessary documents," he said.

Mchunu said he hoped to receive Wheats's file this week and woulld then call her to his office, hopefully before the end of the week.

Wheats said she hoped that this was not another attempt by Mchunu to delay payment to her.

" The best thing is for him to do an electronic fund transfer, who still writes cheques in this day and age unless he has no intention to pay my money."