The Court of Appeal on Mar 10 upheld an earlier decision by the High Court requiring Surgeon Susan Lim to pay some $235,200 in fees to a legal assessor for work done in a disciplinary inquiry against her.
This sum comprises of Senior Counsel Vinodh Coomaraswamy’s fees and part of the Singapore Medical Council’s (SMC) bill of expenses from the two disciplinary hearings.
Dr Lim who was accused of overcharging the Queen of Brunei’s sister, who died of cancer in 2007, was in 2012 suspended from practice for three years and fined S$10,000 by the SMC.
Dr Lim charged the queen’s sister $24 million as fees.
Dr Lim calling Mr Coomaraswamy’s fees “manifestly excessive”, appealed the increased legal fees. The Appeal Court judges Andrew Phang and Tay Yong Kwang however disagreed with her. Given Mr Coomaraswamy’s seniority the hourly rate of $1,050 payable to him was reasonable, the judges said.
Mr Coomaraswamy is now a High Court Judge. He had billed Dr Lim for 224 hours for his role as legal assessor in the second inquiry.
A High Court assistant registrar had in Sep 2014 ordered Dr Lim to pay for two bills which amounted to $360,000 in legal costs and expenses (including a $22,000 fee for Mr Coomaraswamy). The SMC then appealed for the assistant registrar’s decision to be reassessed.
In May last year, the High Court which reassessed the two bills increased Mr Coomarasamy’s fees to $235,200. Given the complexities of the case, the increased fees was not unreasonable, said the High Court judge.
The Appeal Court judges dismissed Dr Lim’s lawyer’s argument that Mr Coomaraswamy’s invoice lacked an exact breakdown of the work he had done. The judges said that an earlier $22,000 figure was “overly low” as it was a complex case, which would have required a lot of preparatory work.
The judges also noted that a letter from the SMC’s solicitors dated May 23, 2014 stated the hourly rate of S$1,050 and also reproduced the information in Mr Coomaraswamy’s invoice.
The SMC in a statement on Mar 9 said that:
“SMC is heartened that the Court of Appeal has upheld the legal assessor’s bill and found that the legal assessor’s fees were entirely reasonable. The Court of Appeal agreed with Justice Woo, who heard the review below and decided that the legal assessor’s hourly rate, as well as the time spent, were reasonable in light of the complexity of the matter and the work he had done for the inquiry.”
Dr Lim’s two-year suspension is ending soon and she can start practicing again in July 2016.Follow us on Social Media
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