Appeal reverses judgment dismissing accident victim’s court appointed curator

The Western Cape High Court. File picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

The Western Cape High Court. File picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Aug 10, 2023


Cape Town - A three-judge Bench of the Western Cape High Court has ruled in favour of an appeal by a court-appointed curator, reversing a judgment that had declared an accident victim mentally well enough to take charge of her own affairs and dismissed the curator.

Carmelita Cornelius was seriously injured in a car accident in August 2008, and in February 2017, with the help of an advocate, she succeeded in a R2.28 million claim for general damages against the Road Accident Fund (RAF).

In October 2017, a court declared Cornelius incapable of managing her affairs and appointed Leon Jansen van Rensburg, the appellant in the current case, as curator of her property.

That ruling relied on the evidence of a psychiatrist who had examined Carmelita and also supported the appointment of a curator. He told the court that Carmelita was partially literate and would need assistance to manage large amounts of money and evaluate financial advice.

The question before the appeal Bench made up of judges Kate Savage, Andre Le Grange and Judith Cloete was whether a February 2022 judgment by Acting Judge Nolundi Nyati releasing Carmelita Cornelius from curatorship was correct.

Ruling in an application made by Carmelita’s daughter, Candice, Judge Nyati declared that Carmelita was capable of managing her affairs and released her from curatorship.

Candice had told Judge Nyati that Carmelita had consulted with a second psychiatrist “who confirmed that she has sufficiently recovered from the accident to effectively take charge of her own affairs”.

Van Rensburg opposed the daughter’s application and argued that Carmelita had not become financially literate and remained incapable of managing her own affairs. The appeal judges found that the second psychiatrist had not been in possession of all reports relevant to the matter when she supported the termination of the curatorship.

They ruled that no clear evidence had been put before Judge Nyati, proving that Carmelita’s circumstances had changed, which was an important pre-requisite to withdrawal of the curatorship.

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Cape Argus