Road fund payout: misconduct caseComment on this story
Pretoria - A couple who claim they were short-changed by leading personal injury law firm Bobroff & Partners have turned to the Pretoria High Court to have Bobroff senior and junior’s names struck off the roll of attorneys pending an investigation into their affairs.
Jennifer and Matthew Graham approached the court in their private capacity. Their application is funded by Discovery Health.
The couple are also asking for a series of orders against the Law Society of the Northern Provinces. One entails compelling the body to investigate the business dealings of Darren Bobroff and his father Ronald, who is a former chairman of the law society and now the president of the SA Association of Personal Injury Lawyers.
The couple want to prove that the lawyers overcharged them, and short-changed them in the payout they had received from the Road Accident Fund (RAF).
They accuse the Bobroffs of grievous misconduct in their handling of their claim and want the law society to provide its findings to the court.
The Bobroffs are denying any wrongdoing. They accuse the Grahams of acting as pawns of Discovery Health. They say the medical aid is funding the couple’s legal fees in pursuit of its own interests.
The law society denies it is delaying an investigation into the Bobroffs and said the Grahams should leave it to do its job.
Senior advocate David Unterhalter told Judge Billy Mothle that his clients, the Grahams, were approaching the court not only on their own behalf, but also on behalf of the wider public interest.
The Grahams crossed paths with the Bobroffs when Matthew was seriously injured in a car accident in 2006. Darren Bobroff had contacted Jennifer and offered to lodge her RAF claim on a contingency basis, whereby she would receive 70 percent of any payout and the law firm 30 percent.
In the end the couple received about R1.1 million of a nearly R2m payment. The law firm took the rest.
The law firm, the couple said, also charged them for 500 hours of professional time spent on the case, at R1 500 an hour. But they claim investigations revealed that at most 132 hours had been spent on the matter – and mostly by non-professional staff at the firm.
It is claimed that the Grahams became disgruntled only after they received a letter from Discovery Health in 2010. The medical aid scheme claimed more than R327 000 from the couple for medical expenses incurred while Matthew was in hospital.
Discovery also told the couple that the RAF did pay the Bobroffs for the medical expenses and that the law firm never gave this money to the Grahams.
Discovery accused the Bobroffs of abusing their clients by short-changing them.
But Ronald Bobroff said Discovery was trying to get back at him and his firm by using the Grahams, as he (Ronald) had exposed a scheme whereby Discovery, “against the Medical Schemes Act”, forced its members who are injured in accidents to claim from the RAF at their own expense and then to reimburse Discovery the full medical costs incurred while in hospital.
The Bobroffs said the Grahams were perfectly happy with their payout before Discovery meddled.
The trial continues.