Surgeon Susan Lim's husband launches new court action

Surgeon Susan Lim's husband launches new court action
Mr Sharma had complained to the Law Society that his wife, Dr Susan Lim, who had been ordered to pay the SMC’s legal costs, was overcharged by $637,009 by lawyers from WongPartnership.

Less than a year after surgeon Susan Lim lost her case against the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) over the overcharging of a royal patient from Brunei, her husband has launched a new court bid - also about allegations of overcharging, this time by the SMC's lawyers.

Mr Deepak Sharma, a 60-year-old retired banker who is funding his wife's case, has asked the High Court to conduct a judicial review of a Law Society committee's decision to dismiss most of his complaints that Senior Counsel Alvin Yeo and Ms Melanie Ho had overcharged his wife, who was ordered to pay the SMC's legal costs.

Their initial bill of $1,007,009.37 was reduced to $370,000 only after a High Court taxation hearing, which takes place when a bill of costs submitted by the winning party of a lawsuit is disputed.

The former chairman of Citi Private Bank then complained to the Law Society that his wife had been overcharged by $637,009, and alleged "gross overcharging" and "improper conduct" by the WongPartnership lawyers.

But the review committee convened by the Law Society dismissed most of Mr Sharma's complaints, saying they were "lacking in substance".

However, while those against Mr Yeo were dismissed in their entirety, the review committee referred part of his complaint against Ms Ho - that the sums claimed from Dr Lim exceeded what had actually been billed to the SMC - back to an inquiry committee for further investigation.

Mr Sharma is also applying for permission to be represented in his application for the judicial review by Queen's Counsel Michael Fordham. He said in papers that he had been turned down by all of the more than 20 Singapore Senior Counsel he had approached.

Dr Lim, 59, was ordered to pay the legal costs incurred by the council after she mounted an unsuccessful legal challenge to stop its disciplinary proceedings against her, over $24 million she had billed the patient in 2007.

She was given a three-year suspension and $10,000 fine after being convicted of 94 charges of professional misconduct in 2012, and failed last year in her appeal to overturn the SMC's decision.

The amount in question was billed by Dr Lim for treating Pengiran Anak Hajah Damit between January and June 2007.

Before then, no complaints had been received from the Bruneian government.

In 2001, the year Dr Lim started treating her royal patient for breast cancer, the bill was about $670,000. The patient died of cancer in August 2007.

In endorsing Dr Lim's conviction by a disciplinary committee, the Court of Three Judges - Singapore's final appeal court - last July called the case "one of the most serious cases - if not the most serious case so far - of overcharging in the medical profession in the local context".

A spokesman for the Law Society said: "As the matter is now before the court, it will not be appropriate for the society to comment on the matter.

"We will be appointing counsel to represent the society to articulate our position."

A WongPartnership spokesman also declined comment.

A judicial review may be requested of the High Court to evaluate the decisions of public authorities, but the party seeking the review must first get leave - or permission - from the court.

Dates for the leave hearings for both applications are to be fixed.

pohian@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on July 03, 2014.
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