Teacher Jonathan Lock wins appeal


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xtemujin

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#1
Selina LumWed, Oct 03, 2007
The Straits Times


Teacher Jonathan Lock wins appeal
Primary school teacher Jonathan Lock has won his long-drawn legal battle which started as a minor dispute over a puny sum of about $60.

He will not have to pay the $120,000 legal bills he has been saddled with.

The Court of Appeal - the highest in the land - on Wednesday ordered all the different parties to bear their own costs leading up to the appeal.

Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong, who presided over the three-judge panel, also ruled that his former lawyer Andrew Hanam cannot bill Mr Lock, without the permission of the Appeal Court, while NTUC Income will have to pay for his Court of Appeal costs.


The CJ also directed the Singapore Law Society to determine if there is a case to hold an inquiry into Mr Hanam's professional conduct.

A vindicated Mr Lock said in a statement after the Appeal Court's judgement: "Although mistakes were made by several parties, I hope that from this landmark case, loopholes, procedures and management will be rectified.

"The common man needs to have a voice, so that no one will ever have to go through what my family and I had gone through."

Mr Hanam, who was also in court on Wednesday morning, said he was confident he would be exonerated by the Law Society, if there were to be an inquiry.
In delivering his judgement, Chief Justice Chan said the high-profile case has degenerated into a contest of wills.

"This case should never have come this far. It would not, if the solicitors in this case had acted reasonably in the interests of their clients," he said.

"A dispute involving a puny sum of about $60 escalated into contests of wills between two solicitors, resulting in wastage of judicial time and unnecessary expenditure in terms of court fees and disbursement which exceeded $100,000 even before the date of this hearing."

Noting that the fees from Mr Lock's ex-lawyer - up to the stage when Mr Hanam discharged himself - had ballooned to $150,000, the CJ said: "We are troubled by this.

"This is an incredible case. We have not seen one like it in all our years in the law. It has brought no credit to counsel involved and the legal system as a whole.

"All that the appellant wanted from the defendant was $375 being $485 for the cost of repairs to his car and $90 for loss of use, for which he eventually agreed to settle at $187.50.

"For this, he was put at risk of having to pay a sum in excess of $100,000 in legal fees."
On Tuesday, Justice V.K Rajah, one of the three appeal judges, rapped the lawyers involved in the case for escalating it from a simple traffic claim into a long, costly feud.

"You used a sledgehammer to crack a nut, when all you needed was a nutcracker," he told the lawyer for NTUC Income, who had challenged an earlier order made by the mediation judge.

Inquiry into ex-counsel's conduct

The Chief Justice also said that in light of the short account given by Mr Lock's new lawyer, Mr Joseph Chen, it is necessary to investigate Mr Hanam for "possible breach of his professional duties" by exposing his client to "unnecessary monetary risks and adverse legal consequences, apparently without his knowledge or consent."

He said he would direct the Registrar of the Supreme Court to refer the matter to the Council of the Law Society to determine whether the Chairman of its Inquiry Committee should look into four areas regarding Mr Hanam's conduct under the Legal Profession Act.
The Inquiry Committee should find out if Mr Hanam had:
  • acted with Mr Lock's knowledge or consent in initiating enforcement proceedings in relation to the settlement
  • acted in the best interests of Mr Lock in seeking to enforce the settlement agreement
  • kept Mr Lock informed or had explained to him the risks involved in taking all the steps he did in the proceedings
  • acted inappropriately in sending Mr Lock a bill for $150,000 upon his discharge as counsel in the appeal.
Mr Lock has maintained that he was not kept in the loop about the case by Mr Hanam.

How $60 dispute ended up costing $100,000

Wed, Oct 03, 2007
AsiaOne

ACCIDENT:
Mr Lock's motorbike and Ms Goh's car collide in Nov 2004.
Mr Lock files lawsuit against Ms Goh in Sep 2005.

1st RULING
PDRC district judge orders both sides to bear 50% liability ($187.50 each) in Mar 2006
Ms Goh's insurers, NTUC Income, to pay costs of $1,000, plus lawyers' expenses.

DISPUTE OVER COSTS
Lawyers can't agree if Mr Lock's former lawyer Andrew Hanam's expenses is $230 or $290. Mr Hanam takes out writ of seizure and sale against Ms Goh for costs.
Ms Goh's insurer, NTUC Income, pays sum ordered by court and costs.

APPEAL
Between May and Nov, NTUC Income's lawyer, Mr Assomull, attempts to get seizure and March consent order to be set aside.
Appeal is rejected by deputy registrar, District Court.
In Feb 2007, NTUC Income is allowed to take case to High Court.

1st RULING OVERTURNED
On 26 Apri, Justice Lai Siu Chiu rules that PDRC is not a court, March consent order set aside.
Mr Lock must now pay legal costs of $63,000. Sum later revised to $45,000. He fires Mr Hanam, who bills him $80,000.
Last month, NTUC Income serves write of seizure on Mr Lock but later offers to waive $45,000 legal bill and give $25,000 as goodwill money.

FINAL APPEAL
Mr Lock turns down offer and proceeds to win appeal in Court of Appeal yesterday.
 

ortega

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Nov 2, 2004
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#3
i feel that Mr Lock should counter sue for emotional distress
but only after the Singapore Law Society finds his former lawyer Andrew Hanam guilty of professional misconduct.
 

Astin

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#5
Good for the teacher, now that lady driver would need to fork out her own money to settle her cost for this crazy legal case.
 

rvxing

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#8
Misuse of the legal system. They think $$ can help them win the case, at the end all get burned, big or small.

At the end of the day, one question was not answered. The original ruling of PDRC, can PDRC help to settle this kind of dispute and claim?????
 

jdredd

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Mar 30, 2006
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the CA clarified that PDRC does have the power to order settlements which are binding. so they have overturned the decision of the high court judge..

as a lawyer personally, this case is extremely embarassing.. should never have got this far..
 

Lenscapes

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hmm.. will anything happen to that high court judge?
 

rOnGrEn

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The Court of Appeal - the highest in the land - on Wednesday ordered all the different parties to bear their own costs leading up to the appeal.
Don't quite understand.. So even though Mr Lock wins the appeal.. he still have to pay his own part of legal costs? How much would that be? $45,000 ?? And the $80,000 his ex lawyer billed him (or issit $150,000?) ?
 

ricohflex

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Feb 24, 2005
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#15
Don't quite understand.. So even though Mr Lock wins the appeal.. he still have to pay his own part of legal costs?
The CA said each counsel has to bear their own costs.
So Mr. Lock does not have to pay a cent.
Watched the news.

The news reader reported the judge said Mr. Lock's lawyer ( the first one who wants to charge him $80,000 to fight a $188 case.) is to be INVESTIGATED by the proper authority.

I guess that means the Law Society?
Or ......
 

ricohflex

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Feb 24, 2005
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#16
The high court judge was absolutely right. PDRC is not a court.

That's the problem.
Some still insist to look at this only from the legal point of view.

I think the CA said the PDRC has powers to pass a ruling that is enforceable and the point is not whether PDRC is or is not a court.

The CA judges were wise enough to look at this from other angles. How can dispute resolution work if after all that,... another judge in a law court is required to pass an enforceable judgement.

How can a $188 case be allowed to degenerate into a >$100,000 issue?

I wonder if this case makes some local lawyers look unwholesome and stupid in the eyes of the international law community?

And the effect on the HC judge?

Does this leave NTUC looking like a bad overbearing company?
(it did try damage control -- but too late... maybe it did not control its own lawyer). Now they got to repair their PR image.
 

melnjes

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#17
Common sense prevails. I do hope JL gets some compensation for the trauma he has suffered. No one deserves this kind of treatment.
 

di0nysus

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#18
he was brave to bring it up to COA....NTUC did offered an olive branch..including $25k cash.

one good day for SG law...hopefully many more to come for the common man
 

rvxing

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#20
The case has yet to end, JL is suing his x-lawyer and the x is counter suing. If Law society found the x error in his job, then the x will loss both cases.

Don't understand why JL stuck to the case for so long, after PDRC rewarded the case. The problem arises bcos of $60 question. JL x decided to take further action and followed by NTUC's lawyer and then this complicated case.
 

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