In news that demonstrates how rich people in Singapore have a hard time wrapping their heads around the concept of the value of money: The High Court has ruled that the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) lawyers have overcharged surgeon Susan Lim, who in 2012 was found by the SMC to have overcharged a member of the Brunei royal family for medical treatment.
Talk about what goes around comes around.
In July this year, the legal bills claimed by SMC were examined and argued over two days before High Court Assistant Registrar Jacqueline Lee.
She issued her decision grounds last month.
Here is a summary of how much the inflated figures got reduced:
From $1.33 million to $317,000
The original total sum of $1.33 million sought by SMC from Dr Lim has been slashed by more than $1 million to $317,000.
From $900,000 to $180,000
Here's the breakdown: SMC had sought some $900,000 for work done by its lawyers at two disciplinary committee hearings. Assistant Registrar Lee reduced that sum to $180,000 as she was not convinced by the evidence that it costs so much.
From $150,000 to $70,000
She also cut the $150,000 legal bill sought by SMC against Dr Lim for the appeal hearing by more than half to $70,000.
From $235,000 to $22,000
SMC had sought $235,000 for the legal assessors hired to advise on points of law for the two committees. This got reduced to $22,000.
From $52,000 to $14,000
The bills for two expert witnesses was supposed to be $52,000. This got reduced to $14,000.
From $6 to $2.50
As a kicker: Ring binders priced at $6 by SMC were cut to $2.50 per unit.
SMC was represented by Senior Counsel Alvin Yeo, who is a PAP MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC, and lawyers Melanie Ho and Lim Wei Lee respectively.
Only one lawyer allowed for SMC, not two
And even the number of lawyers SMC hired was a point of contention.
Dr Lim's lawyer, Paul Tan, had objected to the $900,000 bill for the lawyers as the SMC had the provision to pay only one lawyer and not two.
The counterargument SMC provided by lawyer Melanie Ho was that the costs claimed was for one lawyer only at each stage of the inquiry: Senior Counsel Yeo presented the opening statement and Ho led evidence later on.
However, Assistant Registrar Lee ruled that such an interpretation for one counsel/ solicitor cannot be allowed as SMC had no permission to claim fees for more than one lawyer.
Lee as also unconvinced the claims by SMC's lawyers that some 1,900 hours and $1.229 million in total time cost was incurred for the disciplinary committee hearings.
SMC will be appealing against the decision.
About the Dr Susan Lim case:
Dr Lim, 59, was found guilty of professional misconduct, suspended for three years, censured and fined $10,000 by the SMC in 2012.
She had been probed by the committees for overcharging her Bruneian royalty patient.
Her appeal to the Court of Three Judges was dismissed last year.