On 24 June 2011 the District Court of New South Wales awarded damages of $160,000 plus interest and costs to Mr Stavre Bazdarov, who sued his former law firm, Keddies, for overcharging. Once interest is included, the ultimate damages award is likely to be well over $200,000.
Mr Bazdarov, who is suffering from lung cancer, gave evidence during the trial wearing a breathing device and with the assistance of morphine medication. Although too ill to attend Court to receive judgment, Mr Bazdarov said he was very happy with the result.
Keddies had acted for Mr Bazdarov in relation to a medical negligence claim arising from medical complications following a hernia operation in 2002. Mr Bazdarov’s medical negligence claim settled for $450,000 on 14 November 2005, which was the first day of the hearing. According to the amended statement of claim, Mr Bazdarov received $153,417.94 from that settlement, and Keddies received $290,344.01.
Judge Ashford held that the costs and disbursements charged by Keddies were based on a Keddies “Fees Ledger” which contained “numerous examples of overcharging, double charging and entries which could not be substantiated.” The Judge noted that Keddies’ partners and employees widely charged at hourly rates higher than those agreed with Mr Bazdarov. Keddies’ argument that the Fees Ledger was nothing more than an “aide memoire” was rejected by the Judge.
The Judge found that Keddies, by not complying with various provisions of the Legal Profession Act 1987, were only entitled to costs which were fair and reasonable.
Judge Ashford awarded damages in favour of Mr Bazdarov on the basis that $135,248.40 was the fair and reasonable amount he should have been charged (compared to the amount of $290,344.01 he was charged). A report from legal costs consultant, Mary Whelan, whom the Judge described as “eminently qualified” to provide an expert opinion in this case, concluded that $100,542.10 was a fair and reasonable amount for Mr Bazdarov to have been charged by Keddies.
In her judgment, the Judge observed that the only witness called by Keddies, a former employee of the law firm, “could not explain how items such as consideration of a cheque occupying three six minute units could be substantiated nor perusal of a cheque for a period of six minutes…”
The barristers for Mr Bazdarov, Geoffrey Watson SC and Greg O’Mahoney, argued that the fees charged by Keddies were “excessive” and in breach of the costs agreement Mr Bazdarov entered into with Keddies.
Mr Bazdarov was represented by Firths, who are acting on behalf of a large number of former Keddies clients seeking to recover amounts they were allegedly overcharged.
Click here to view a copy of the judgement.