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<ul><li><p>1 </p><p>IN THE HIGH COURT OF SOUTH AFRICA </p><p>NORTH GAUTENG DIVISION, PRETORIA </p><p>Case No: 12610/2013 </p><p>and </p><p>Case No: 73012/13 </p><p>In the ex parte application of </p><p>JACOB MANTJITJI MODIBA Applicant </p><p>obo SIBUSISIWE RUCA </p><p>In re </p><p>SIBUSISIWE RUCA Plaintiff </p><p>and </p><p>ROAD ACCIDENT FUND Defendant </p><p>JUDGMENT </p><p>INTRODUCTION </p><p>1. This matter is one of a number of similar cases, all involving road accident </p><p>victims who suffered significant head and brain injuries, which were heard by </p><p>the court during the last weeks of the fourth term of 2013. They share most, or </p></li><li><p>2 </p><p>all, of the features that will be addressed infra. These features represent a </p><p>practice that appears to have developed over the past few years which avoids </p><p>or circumvents the provisions of Rule 57 of the Uniform Rules of Court and </p><p>the common law relating to individuals who are, or may be, unable to look </p><p>after their own affairs. By avoiding or circumventing the provisions of the Rule </p><p>and the common law principles established over decades, these matters are </p><p>prevented from coming to the Masters attention, avoiding the latters </p><p>supervision and scrutiny while the potential need to appoint a curator bonis or </p><p>curator bonis et personae to the individual concerned is not considered </p><p>properly or at all. </p><p>2. This practice may cause irreparable harm to the road accident victims </p><p>concerned and leaves the door open to other abuses of the Road Accident </p><p>Fund litigation. It is therefore essential to examine its characteristics in some </p><p>detail. While the facts of the present matter may in some instances be more </p><p>extraordinary than in others, it must be underlined that there appear to be </p><p>many cases which present the same issues that are discussed infra. </p><p>THE FACTUAL BACKGROUND </p><p>3. The action was originally instituted in the name of the patient on whose behalf </p><p>the curator ad litem is presently conducting the litigation against the </p><p>defendant. The particulars of claim, signed by the then plaintiffs attorney of </p><p>record on the 26th February 2013, assert that the plaintiff (henceforth referred </p><p>to as the patient) was a pedestrian who was involved in an accident with an </p></li><li><p>3 </p><p>identified vehicle on the 28th November 2009 at approximately 20h00 in </p><p>Solomon Drive, Asanda Village, Strand, Western Cape. </p><p>4. The patient suffered severe injuries, which are set out in the particulars of </p><p>claim as follows: </p><p>.1 Severe head injury with brain damage; </p><p>.2 . </p><p>.3 Facial bruises; </p><p>.4 Right ear injury. </p><p>.5 Chest injury; </p><p>.6 Whiplash neck injury; </p><p>.7 </p><p>5. On the 6th November 2013, a few days before the trial date, the particulars of </p><p>claim were amended to include an allegation that the patient, then still acting </p><p>in his own name, had lost the function of his right ear and had suffered injuries </p><p>to his neck and right shoulder. </p><p>6. The medical report forming part of the RAF 1 form, the third party claim form, </p><p>was completed by dr. Peter Mitchell at the Groote Schuur hospital on the 11th </p><p>May 2012. He recorded that the patient was admitted to this hospital the day </p><p>after the accident, having been transferred to it by ambulance from the </p><p>Strand. It was evident that the patient had suffered a severe head injury and </p><p>upon admission recorded 3T/15 on the coma scale, a reading that is in itself </p><p>indicative of severe traumatic effects upon the brain. A CT scan of the head </p><p>demonstrated a large right tempero parietal extradural haematoma. The blood </p><p>that had gathered in the scull had to be evacuated by way of a craniotomy. </p></li><li><p>4 </p><p>The patient took more than a month to recover sufficiently to reach a coma </p><p>scale of 14/15 on the 21st December 2012. </p><p>7. The assessment report prepared by dr Mokgokong, a neurosurgeon, dated </p><p>the 13th July 2012 concludes that: </p><p>The head and brain injuries were severe. There were also severe long-term </p><p>mental and behavioural changes that resulted from the accident </p><p>8. In his expert report which was finalised on 10 July 2012, dr Mokgokong </p><p>asserts that the patients head and brain injury was so serious that he took a </p><p>full year to recover sufficiently to recognise his family members and to </p><p>communicate intelligibly with them. He also suffered prolonged post-traumatic </p><p>amnesia. During the interview the patient presented with neuropsychological </p><p>problems, suffered memory lapses, exhibited changes in behaviour and </p><p>personality as well as features of mental depression. </p><p>9. Dr Mokgokongs report concludes with the following finding: </p><p>As a complication of the severe brain injury, he also (h)as long-term mental </p><p>and behavioural changes. </p><p>10. The defendant instructed another neurosurgeon, dr L F Segwapa, who </p><p>examined the patient on the 26th August 2013. Dr Segwapa recorded i.a. the </p><p>following in respect of the patients accident-related injuries: </p><p>Head injury </p><p>He sustained direct injury to the right side of the head and face causing an </p><p>extradural hematoma. He had immediate loss of consciousness. His </p><p>admission GCS was 5/15 and remained confused after 3 weeks. These are </p><p>features of a severe brain injury. </p></li><li><p>5 </p><p>11. As far as a potential curatorship was concerned, dr Segwapa commented in </p><p>one sentence: He cannot manage his affairs. </p><p>12. Dr Gladys Maluleke, a consulting clinical psychologist, was requested by the </p><p>patients attorneys to examine him, which she did on the 18th September </p><p>2012. In her neuropsychological report she opines the following: </p><p>He is independent in self-care and can look after himself. He can distinguish </p><p>coins from banknotes, but he is confused when he has to count a lump sum of </p><p>money. He can manage his own budget. He relates well with the family. He </p><p>needs assistance to manage, plan, think and run his life and he relies on his </p><p>mother for that. He believes that he will not be able to live independently as </p><p>he needs assistance in some aspects of house management and planning. </p><p>The severe deterioration in bilateral functions strongly implicates the severe </p><p>diffuse axonal brain injury he sustained. Given a mental functioning of this </p><p>level, Mr Ruca has been stripped of the mental capacity to participate </p><p>effectively in the open labour market and to live independently.There is </p><p>sufficient evidence in the records that he sustained severe injuries to the head </p><p>involving a large tempero parietal extradural haematoma, loss of </p><p>consciousness with the admission GCS of 3/15 that improved gradually over </p><p>a period of weeks, The dynamics demonstrate severe brain </p><p>dysfunction..Judging from the main complaints, cognitive, emotional and </p><p>behavioural deficits, he seemed to retain serious complications of severe </p><p>diffuse brain injury that compromised his employment prospects and ability to </p><p>live independently.His condition imposes a considerable burden to his </p><p>relatives and renders him vulnerable to abuse and rejection. A caregiver need </p><p>to be appointed..All funds awarded to him must be protected. </p></li><li><p>6 </p><p>13. In his psychological report dated 25 September 2013 Mr H J Swanepoel, </p><p>clinical psychologist, notes the patients psychological complaints: </p><p>nightmares of the accident and anxiety when he has to drive in traffic. </p><p>He is weary when he is a pedestrian. </p><p>He has poor memory as he will forget where he left objects. </p><p>He also suffers from poor concentration. </p><p>He is aggressive with constant irritation. </p><p>His mother notes that Mr Ruca requires assistance to manage his affairs. She </p><p>believes that he will not be able to live independently. </p><p>The neuropsychological evaluation indicates that Mr Ruca seem (sic) to be </p><p>neuropsychologically impaired in the area of logical reasoning, problem </p><p>solving, memory and learning. It can be concluded that he is neurologically </p><p>impaired however, his pre morbid (sic) level speaks of a lowered level of </p><p>functioning as he failed several academic years. </p><p>The results also suggest lowered cognitive pre morbid (sic) functioning. </p><p>However, the accident background and his neuropsychological results </p><p>suggest the probability of severe traumatic head injury. </p><p>11.1 The available information indicates that Mr Ruca is neurologically </p><p>impaired which prevents independent functioning. It is therefore unlikely that </p><p>psychotherapy will be of assistance for Mr Ruca due to his low level of </p><p>functioning. The family members who care for him may benefit from psycho </p><p>education </p><p>11.2 If compensation is awarded the funds must be protected by a curator. </p></li><li><p>7 </p><p>14. It is unnecessary to quote from other expert reports that were prepared for </p><p>purposes of the trial, which was set down on the 21 November 2013, as they </p><p>do not deal with aspects that are relevant to this judgment. </p><p>15. Against the background of the above comments upon the plaintiffs mental, </p><p>neurological and psychological condition the parties made their final trial </p><p>preparations, including the holding of two pre-trial conferences at which the </p><p>usual issues, including the status of the expert reports and the possibility of a </p><p>settlement of the patients damages claim were discussed. The patient was </p><p>still acting as plaintiff until the day of the trial. (In passing it may be noted that </p><p>the patient swore to an affidavit as claimant, presumably when the claim was </p><p>submitted to the defendant. In this affidavit the patient asserted that the facts </p><p>recorded therein fell within his personal knowledge and were true and correct. </p><p>He described the accident scene and the manner in which the collision </p><p>occurred. He even provided the registration number of the vehicle that hit him </p><p>after it approached from East to West at a high speed and collided with </p><p>me. All the relevant experts are in agreement that the patient suffered from </p><p>severe retrograde amnesia and could remember nothing of the accident after </p><p>regaining consciousness many weeks after the accident.) </p><p>16. The matter was enrolled for the 21st November 2013. On the day of the trial </p><p>the patient, still acting as plaintiff, and the defendant purported to settle the </p><p>claim, agreeing to the defendant paying a sum of R 2 320 540, 00 in respect </p><p>of the patients damages and a 100% undertaking in terms of section 17 (4) </p><p>(a) of the Road Accident Fund Act, Act 56 of 1996, for the reasonable cost of </p><p>any future accommodation of the plaintiff in a hospital or nursing home, or </p><p>treatment or rendering of a service or supplying goods to him, arising from the </p></li><li><p>8 </p><p>injuries sustained by the plaintiff in the accident. The defendant agreed to pay </p><p>the costs on the High Court scale including the costs of the patients experts. </p><p>A draft order was prepared for presentation to the presiding judge at the roll </p><p>call of the trial roll with the request to make the agreement an order of court. </p><p>17. When the matter was called, the patient was represented by his attorney and </p><p>advocate who informed the court that she was acting on behalf of the </p><p>plaintiff. The court raised the question whether the patient was in a position </p><p>to appreciate the nature and extent of the proposed settlement and whether </p><p>he would be able to manage the funds about to be awarded to him. The </p><p>matter stood down until the 25th November 2013 to allow the parties to </p><p>consider the position. The matter had to be postponed again to the 29th </p><p>November 2013 to allow a proper application for the appointment of a curator </p><p>ad litem to be prepared. On that date, the patients counsel, while the patient </p><p>was still acting as plaintiff, intimated to the court that adv R had been </p><p>instructed as curator ad litem and that the latter had already been briefed by </p><p>the patients attorney and herself on all relevant aspects of the matter and had </p><p>already prepared a report which he intended to present to the court once his </p><p>appointment as curator was confirmed by the court. Counsel for the defendant </p><p>indicated that the defendant agreed to the proposed modus operandi. When </p><p>the court enquired how it was possible to prepare a report as curator ad litem </p><p>without having been appointed as such by the court, not one of the three </p><p>advocates was able to supply the court with a satisfactory answer. Nor were </p><p>the three able to deal with the courts question whether the proposed curators </p><p>independence had not been irrevocably compromised by his prior association </p><p>with the patients legal representatives. Not one of the three advocates had </p></li><li><p>9 </p><p>considered the applicability of Rule 57 of the Uniform Rules of Court to the </p><p>appointment of the proposed curator, and they did not seem to be aware of its </p><p>provisions. </p><p>18. When pressed for an answer why the appointment of a curator ad litem was </p><p>considered necessary the court was informed that the patient was not able to </p><p>deal with the funds about to be awarded to him, as determined by the experts </p><p> so the argument ran - and that the creation of a trust to have the moneys </p><p>administered by a trustee appointed by a financial institution was proposed in </p><p>the report already prepared by the aspirant curator ad litem. </p><p>19. The court was not referred to any authority authorising the proposed course of </p><p>conduct, which was clearly in conflict with the provisions of Rule 57 and with </p><p>all relevant authorities. The matter was stood down for a few days to enable </p><p>the patients advisors to prepare a duly motivated application for the </p><p>appointment of a curator ad litem, in spite of the three counsels assurance </p><p>that the modus operandi followed by them had been followed in this divisions </p><p>courts, as well as in the Gauteng South Division for years. Similar indications </p><p>had been given by counsel practising at the Pretoria and Johannesburg Bars </p><p>in the other matters dealt with by the court in the weeks preceding the hearing </p><p>of this case, when similar orders to create a trust with a financial institution for </p><p>a brain damaged plaintiff who would be unable to administer a large amount </p><p>of money were sought. In all these matters the court raised the question </p><p>whether such an order could be made without first declaring the </p><p>plaintiff/patient unable to deal with all or some of his affairs a question which </p><p>appeared to take all the counsel involved in these matters by surprise. It </p><p>certainly caught the three counsel involved in this matter on the wrong foot. </p></li><li><p>10 </p><p>20. The application for the appointment of advocate R as curator ad litem was </p><p>dismissed and no fees were allowed for that days appearance, on the 29th </p><p>November 2013. </p><p>21. The application was renewed on the 2nd December 2013. It was now brought </p><p>on behalf of the patient by the attorney who had acted as attorney of record </p><p>for the patient plaintiff since the inception of the matter and had, purportedly </p><p>on the instructions of the patient, engaged counsel and instructed experts to </p><p>act as witnesses and had, finally, purported to settle the matter on behalf of </p><p>his client. </p><p>22. In motivating the need to appoint a curator ad litem, the attorney now, for the </p><p>first time, stated i.a. the followi...</p></li></ul>


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