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Cape Town - An order to pay damages of R10 million to Andrew Merryweather, who was paralysed in a scuffle eight years ago, would mean “an adult life of insolvency” for student Oliver Scholtz, 25, the Western Cape High Court heard.
Scholtz is trying to reverse a R10.29m default judgment against him made by Judge Boet Smit.
Merryweather was left paralysed after a brawl between a group of men in the early hours of September 9, 2006, at a petrol station in Claremont. Merryweather today is tetraplegic (paralysed below the neck).
Scholtz and five others were acquitted of attempted murder, but Scholtz was later in a default judgment found liable for Merryweather’s injuries. Neither Scholtz nor his legal representatives were present when the court made the order.
In 2009, Merryweather instituted civil action against Scholtz, Liam Hechter and Joel Thackwray – three of the men involved in the fight.
He later abandoned his case against Hechter and Thackwray, but by this time Scholtz was living in the UK and could not be found, not even by tracing agents.
Scholtz came back to South Africa and has now brought an application to have the judgment rescinded.
In an affidavit this week, he said he was 18 and in matric at Reddam House College at the time of the incident, and that he was not the aggressor.
He said the events had had a harrowing impact on his life.
He had been living and working in Britain when the judgment was granted against him and there were irregularities with how the summons was served on him.
He argues that he is a student with minimal assets, no income of his own, and relies on his parents’ support.
Barbara Gassner SC, for Scholtz, told the court that the judgment debt was “enormous” and Scholtz had minimal assets. “He… faces an adult life of insolvency.” Grassner said the debt was not only monetary; because of the charges against him, there was a “heavy social stigma”.
After a trial lasting 18 months in the Wynberg Regional Court, Scholtz, Thackwray, Hechter, Michael Enslin, Justin Maxwell and Samuel Davidson were acquitted of attempted murder.
Thackwray, however, was convicted of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm for the attack on Merryweather’s brother Nicholas, and was sentenced to six months in jail, suspended for four years, but the conviction was set aside in November 2010.
Charges against a seventh person, Shane Wolendorp, were withdrawn in 2007 after he turned State witness. The court acquitted Dane Killian in December 2007, at the end of the State’s case.