Mlambo defends acting judge over RAF ruling
Gauteng Judge President Dustan Mlambo defended an acting judge after he was attacked for refusing to rubber-stamp a Road Accident Fund settlement from an accident that occurred 22 years ago.
Acting Judge Zubair Khan last month declined to sign off on a R3.1m road accident fund settlement for law student Catherine Smit, who claimed to have suffered brain damage as a result of a 2001 car accident when she was a baby.
News24 reports that her original R206 000 claim had ballooned to R10.3m, after an expert concluded she may already have achieved a PhD had she not been involved in the accident.
The Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg) judge came under fire from a self-described ‘RAF Advocates Group’ on WhatsApp, after he raised concerns about the ‘veracity’ of the car crash damages ‘now being alleged some 22 years later’ by Smit.
Evidence before the court, which Khan referenced in his ruling on the case, revealed that the young woman had obtained five As in matric, achieved almost entirely above-average marks in her tertiary studies, and had obtained her driver's licence (despite an expert stating that she may not, in fact, be a ‘safe’ driver).
Rather than rubber-stamping an agreed order that Smit should be paid R3.1m for her alleged brain damage claim, Khan ordered that her case be postponed until the Constitutional Court has delivered its ruling in the Mafisa v Road Accident Fund case.
News24 reports that this case will determine whether judges have the power to reduce agreed settlement amounts in respect of loss of future income.
Khan's decision, which could set a precedent for other judges concerned about the correctness of RAF settlement amounts, was greeted with outrage by advocate Eben Serfontein, who labelled Khan as ‘an acting judge on a rogue bench’.
In a series of strongly worded WhatsApp posts on the ‘RAF Advocates Group’, Serfontein was adamant that judges had no legal power to investigate settlements that had been agreed on by RAF claimants and the Fund.
This, he said, was particularly in light of the SCA ruling in the Road Accident Fund v Taylor case, where the court found that 'a court has no general duty or power to exercise oversight over the expenditure of public funds'.
Article disclaimer: While we have made every effort to ensure the accuracy of this article, it is not intended to provide final legal advice as facts and situations will differ from case to case, and therefore specific legal advice should be sought with a lawyer.