Shine Lawyers sued over injury victim’s excessive bill
SHINE Lawyers is on the receiving end of a law suit from one of its personal injury clients who claims she was slugged with an excessive six-figure bill that included a fee of $3000 to read one document.
Pamela Kilah, 65, is suing Shine, which had been preparing her Supreme Court case against Wilston's Angel of Detox, for excessive charges that culminated in a $307,280.61 bill.
Ms Kilah had hired Shine two years ago in a $1.7 million law suit against Angel of Detox for a colonic treatment that allegedly perforated her bowel.
Ms Kilah said she decided to hand over the case to solicitor Bill King, of Shine Lawyers, in 2017 from another law firm HD Lawyers, owned by solicitor Harry Day.
Ms Kilah said Mr King, who she met in her home, did not explain Shine's fee structure or give any estimate as to the cost of the case. "I was very ill at the time and had to be put back into hospital," she said in an affidavit lodged in the Supreme Court.
She said she first became aware of the size of the costs being claimed by Shine when she received estimates in preparation for a mediation in December last year. "The fees were wildly beyond what I had expected," she said.
She said the fee included more than $3000 to read a document that took her less than 30 minutes to read as well as for internal meetings between solicitors. She also estimated she was charged $20,000 by Shine to produce a single document.
Under the terms of her agreement with Shine. which she terminated in April, she will only be liable for the costs if she wins her case. Shine says it retains a solicitor's lien over Ms Kilah's file for unpaid fees.
"Charges for the preparation of documents are in my view grossly excessive because so many different employees appear to have entered chargeable units on the basis that they did some work on the same document as other people," Ms Kilah said.
"It was never suggested to me by Mr King at our meeting that he would need to engage assistance from other lawyers in the firm for advice or to review the case and that I would be charged for those meetings."
In her claim, Ms Kilah said the work undertaken on her behalf by her first law firm, HD Lawyers, was valued between $5,500 to $7700. But Shine ended up charging her $15,000 for that work when her file was transferred.
In an affidavit lodged in the Supreme Court, Mr King said a cost agreement was presented to Ms Kilah who then signed it. Mr King said it was explained to Ms Kilah that Shine would charge both professional fees and disbursements.
She also was told fees were charged on an hourly rate and that his charge out rate was $630 a hour. Mr King also explained to Ms Kilah that Shine could not predict how much work would be needed to complete her case.
"It is not like a painter painting a house who can provide a fixed quote because he knows how much paint or area he needs to paint," said Mr King in his affidavit. "In our work, we cannot predict how much work is needed."
Shine said it had already incurred costs of $91,956 in fighting her case, including barrister's fees, a forensic accountants report and expert reports. "Funding of disbursements in personal injury matters can be expensive, often running into the thousands of dollars," said Claire Eves, Shine Lawyers national special counsel, in an affidavit lodged with the Supreme Court.
Ms Eves said Shine adopted a "collaborative model" that required discussions between different solicitors within the firm about the strengths and weaknesses of particular cases. "The purpose is to ensure that Shine Lawyers seeks the best possible outcome for clients," she said.
In a separate affidavit, Shine's Simon Morrison said the law firm had paid $12,000 to take over the case from Harry Day and value of the work performed by his firm was more than the $5550 to $7000 claimed by Ms Kilah.
"At no stage in the course of any discussion or correspondence with him did Mr Day say or write to me words to the effect that we would only have charged Ms Kilah $5000-$7000," Mr Morrison said. "On the contrary, Mr Day contended that his work in progress would justify a professional fee of $17,500 plus GST."
In a separate statement to the Courier-Mail Shine said "its approach to advising on fees complies with all applicable regulatory and statutory provisions."