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Mr Bobroff, open your books

Constitutional court decision forces law firm to allow inspection.

The Constitutional Court earlier this week ruled that a court ordered inspection of the books of Gauteng personal injury law firm, Ronald Bobroff & Partners (RBP) by the Law Society of the Northern Provinces (LSNP) had to commence immediately.

Road accident victim Matthew Graham and his wife Jennifer hauled Ronald Bobroff, his son Darren and RBP to court, challenging the amount of the fees that the Bobroffs had charged him.  The Grahams alleged in court papers, and to the LSNP, that they had been massively overcharged, and that the Bobroffs accounting to them was false.  They asked that the court compel the LSNP to inspect RBP’s books of account, computer servers and other records.  The matter was heard in January before Judge Billy Mothle in the North Gauteng High Court (NGHC).

After Judge Mothle handed down his judgment, Ronald Bobroff told Moneyweb that they welcomed it, saying, “RBP welcomes the vindication of it, its Directors and the Law Society of the Northern Provinces, as is evident from the judgment today handed down in North Gauteng High Court.”

Read Law Society ordered to ‘judge’ Bobroff

In February of this year the Constitutional Court declared RBP’s common law contingency fee agreement to have been illegal.

Read Bobroff’s contingency fee regime unlawful

Appeals

The Bobroffs and RBP then proceeded to ask Judge Mothle for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).  He refused their application, with costs.

The Bobroffs then took the matter to the SCA, who also refused to hear their appeal.

This week ten Judges of the Constitutional Court also refused to hear the appeal and dismissed the application with costs.

What will happen now?

The original order of Judge Mothle must now be implemented:

  • RBP must allow an independent IT expert to access its computer network within thirty days to investigate the disputed file notes;
  • RBP must furnish the originals of the disputed documents of the costs consultant to determine their veracity;
  • RBP must allow an inspection of its books of account, including the business and trust accounts;
  • The LSNP’s Disciplinary Enquiry Committee, if it so decides, may require the Bobroffs to answer to the twenty disciplinary charges under oath, supported by confirmatory affidavits, prior to the commencement of the disciplinary enquiry; and
  • The resumption of the disciplinary enquiry against Ronald Bobroff and his son Darren must happen within sixty days.

 

Here is the court-imposed timetable:

November 21:  The Bobroffs have to hand over their documents and computer records.

December 6: The LSNP inspection must be completed and their findings delivered to the Court, the Grahams and the RAF

December 21: The LSNP Disciplinary Committee must have resumed their enquiry.  It has sixty days in which to complete its work.

Comments

In response Ronald Bobroff said:   “We note and accept the declining of our application for leave to appeal.”

LSNP Director, Thinus Grobler said in response:  “LSNP President, Llewellyn Curlewis, received your e-mail and the attached court order at 17:37 and requested the Monitoring Unit of the LSNP at 17:52, after perusal of the court order, to immediately give effect to the order.  As always, the LSNP will respect all court orders, especially when handed down by our Constitutional Court.”

Eugene Watson, CEO of the Road Accident Fund told Moneyweb:  “The Fund notes the outcome of the Constitutional Court matter”.

The Grahams, and attorneys acting for other former clients of RBP welcomed the judgment.

George van Niekerk, attorney for the Grahams noted:  “We are very pleased with the prompt dismissal by the Constitutional Court of the Bobroffs’ application for leave to appeal. The contention by the Bobroffs that they are the victims of a malicious and unlawful vendetta has been firmly rejected by the NGHC, the SCA and the Constitutional Court. “It is high time that the Bobroffs abandon their resolve to delay and obfuscate. Hopefully the inspection will be allowed to proceed.

“In the meanwhile the application by our clients the Grahams against RBP for an order of contempt of the court order of Judge Mothle will be heard on 5 December 2014 in the North Gauteng High Court.  This relates to the refusal by RBP to comply with parts of an order made on 15 April 2014 by Judge Mothle.

“It is necessary for RBP to comply with this order so that the disciplinary enquiry by the LSNP into their conduct in the Graham matter can proceed without delay.”

Attorney Anthony Millar of Norman Berger & Partners has been has been litigating successfully against RBP on behalf of a handful of clients told Moneyweb that the Bobroffs were nearing their Waterloo:  “For my various clients, involved in litigating against RBP, to recover what is due to them this ruling is welcomed. It is hoped that the LSNP’s investigation of the books of RBP will assist in revealing the full extent of the overcharging engaged in by them since at least 2002. This ruling also offers hope to hundreds of former RBP clients who may not have been aware of the extent to which they were overcharged by RBP.”

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