20 September 2019 – By Zelda Venter in Pretoria News
A PRETORIA law firm which specialises on Road Accident Fund (RAF) claims has launched an application in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, to overturn a practice directive.
Gert Nel Inc is arguing that the directive will micro-manage personal injury cases to such an extent that the public will have great difficulty in having their day in court.
The firm will take on these directives in the same court where the directive has been established and has been practised since July 1.
It is expected that a full bench – three judges – from a different division, will hear the application.
This practice directive is aimed at personal injury cases such as RAF claims, medical negligence and claims following train accidents.
Judge President Dunstan Mlambo earlier issued a lengthy document on how cases would be managed from now on. This document contains step-by-step directives of what must be done before a civil trial can start and how it will be subjected to case management before a trial date will be allocated.
He said the objective of this directive was to streamline the process by ensuring that everything was in place before a judge was allocated to hear a case. But the directive has the legal fraternity up in arms, with them saying rather than alleviate congested court rolls, it will have a devastating effect on the public who wish to bring their cases before the courts.
One of the main objections is that a case has to go through a fine tooth comb by the judicial officials who have to declare it “trial ready”.
Cases which are now declared to be ready can only get trial dates from 2021 due to the congested rolls.
By that time the medical reports and other details, which are now up to date, would be outdated, lawyer Gert Nel said in court papers. It is well known that it is costly to obtain medical reports from experts and these will have to be updated closer to the trial, to reflect the victim’s situation then.
Nel stated the position of five of his clients, who are among those anxiously awaiting their claims to be adjudicated. He said the new directive in their cases will cause an additional total cost of R263 343 by the time they get their day in court.
He referred to the about 6 000 RAF case files which were earlier this year already awaiting trial dates in the office of the Deputy Judge President Aubrey Ledwaba’s office. He said by the time these get trial dates, the additional costs, to be footed by the already bankrupt RAF, will be over R316 million.
In his application, which was this week served on the office of Justice Minister Ronald Lamola, the Registrar of the High Court and others, Nel asked that Practice Directive 2 of the North Gauteng Division be declared invalid and set aside.
Nel said that in the past case management was in place to ensure that cases were streamlined before it went to court. But by then the cases already had trial dates and the lawyers ensured that all was ready to go.
While the case management system had become harsher as time went by, causing a backlog of thousands of cases by the start of this year, Nel said it was now impossible to tell clients when their cases will be heard.
He urged all stakeholders to join the proceedings as (friends of the court) to give their input as to the way forward.