Several claimants who believe they have a chance of winning their medical negligence cases against the South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) are now seeking redress via the legal Disciplinary Committee. This, after some clients are alleging that they have been informed by attorneys from the San Fernando-based law firm that their matters were closed and could no longer be pursued. In fact, documents obtained by Sunday Guardian revealed that only last week an attorney from Freedom House Law Chambers was brought before the Disciplinary Committee in the Hall of Justice, Port-of-Spain regarding a matter of a similar nature.
Official documents listed attorney Orrin Kerr, who confirmed to Sunday Guardian that he represented the complainant in the matter. The proceeding was chaired by Senior Counsel Deborah Peake. Since last Sundayâ€™s exclusive exposĂ© regarding alleged client swapping at the Harris Street, San Fernando-based law firm, the newsroom has been bombarded with telephone calls from disgruntled clients claiming â€śbetrayalâ€ť and â€śdeception.â€ť
Arima family hurt, angry
An Arima family is set to report the law firm to the Disciplinary Committee regarding the death of four-year-old infant Kazam Ali. Parents Kameel, 53, and Shaliza, 42, said three weeks ago they received a telephone call informing them that the matter could no longer be pursued based on the advice of a team of doctors. The infant died on April 25, 2009, at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex. The death certificate listed his cause of death as pulmonary haemorrhage congenital heart disease.
However, the family claimed their son was not carefully monitored at the health institution, resulting in his death. Angered by the loss, grief-stricken Ali went public calling for an investigation into his sonâ€™s death. Within days he claimed the law firm contacted him. â€śI did not go to an attorney because we had no money. Within days of me highlighting my sonâ€™s death publicly I got a call from Freedom House telling me I had a very good case and bring all his medical records to the law firm,â€ť the upset father recalled, showing documents to substantiate his claim. Ali said it was based on the law firmâ€™s advice he opted to pursue the matter.
â€śThey told us donâ€™t worry about anything, they would handle everything and we would arrange everything afterwards. We were told to obtain a letter of probate from the Hall of Justice and bring all medical records. â€śNow, all of sudden I received a call saying a team of doctors reviewed the file and we have no case. Who are these doctors? I do not know? I cannot even get back the CD I gave to them that has all the important information. They gave us a run around for almost two years. â€śThe way how this is looking it is like if politics has a part to play in this matter. â€śAll the time I had a very good case and all of a sudden a new government comes into power and I have no case. â€śThis thing is very funny but I am going to expose them,â€ť Ali said, showing a complaint he has penned to the Law Association.
Family reports lawyer
In a separate case, Sunday Guardian understands a South family has also reported the law firm to the Disciplinary Committee. Reliable sources said the family was informed earlier this month that their claim of medical negligence against SWRHA involving a disabled infant could not be pursued. The family claimed the law firm informed them that the matter was closed based on the opinion of a doctor.
However, it is alleged that the doctorâ€™s report is being deemed fraudulent since the 90-year-old doctor has ceased practicing for the last 30 years. A relative of the traumatised family said it was a case of â€śdeceptionâ€ť and that they felt â€śbetrayed.â€ť Citing further grounds for an investigation, the family claimed that they were told that their matter was a â€świnning caseâ€ť based on medical reports and was told ten per cent of the settlement would cover legal costs. Legal sources confirmed to Sunday Guardian that the complaint has engaged the attention of the Disciplinary Committee.
What the Act says:
Under the Legal Profession Act it is a breach for attorneys to engage in any contingency fee agreement with clients. No matter the circumstances the law of T&T does not permit for legal costs to be â€śabsorbedâ€ť in the award of damages of those affected. Section: 9(2) of the Act states: â€śAn attorney-at-law shall not enter into an agreement for or charge or collect a fee in contravention of these rules or any of the law.â€ť An attorney who commits such a breach shall be liable to any of the penalties which the Disciplinary Committee and/or the Court is empowered to impose. Attempts to contact Bhagwandeen on five occasions proved futile despite the fact that voice messages were left on her cellular phone.
The Civil Proceedings Rules of 1998
A breakdown of the damages and cost attorneys and clients are entitled to.
Scale of Prescribed Cost Value of Claim Percentage
Not exceeding $30,000 30 per cent
Exceeding $30,000 but not exceeding $50,000 25 per cent
Exceeding $50,000 but not exceeding $100,00 20 percent
Exceeding $100,000 but not exceeding $250,00 15 per cent
Exceeding $250,000 but not exceeding $500,000 10 per cent
Exceeding $500,000 but not exceeding $200,000 5 per cent
Exceeding 1,000,000 but not exceeding $2,000,000 2.5 per cent
Exceeding $5,000,000 but not exceeding $10,000,000 1 per cent
Exceeding $10,000,000 .5 per cent
Extracted From: Trinidad Guardian Newspaper
Published: Monday, June 27, 2011