Susan Lim's legal bill rises to $825k as SMC wins appeal

Dr Susan Lim was brought before two disciplinary committees for overcharging the sister of the Queen of Brunei.
Dr Susan Lim was brought before two disciplinary committees for overcharging the sister of the Queen of Brunei.BT FILE PHOTO

Surgeon ordered by judge to pay extra $465,000 in legal costs and expenses

THE surgeon suspended for overcharging a member of Brunei's royal family must pay an extra $465,000 in legal costs and expenses to the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) after it won an appeal yesterday on two bills it had submitted against her.

Dr Susan Lim, 60, had been ordered to pay $360,000 in costs and expenses last September, after the SMC's claim of nearly $1.4 million was slashed by a High Court assistant registrar.

The sum included $250,000 in fees to the SMC's lawyers from Wong Partnership and $81,000 in fees to two legal assessors and two medical experts involved in the disciplinary inquiries.

The SMC - which originally sought $1 million in legal fees and $337,000 in fees to the assessors and experts - appealed for the bills to be reviewed.

Yesterday, in a written judgment, Justice Woo Bih Li allowed an increase in the total bill to about $825,000.

While still short of the amount initially sought, total lawyer fees have more than doubled to $520,000 as part of the new amount.

The bills were for work done by the SMC's lawyers and expenses incurred in two disciplinary committee hearings brought against Dr Lim, as well as her subsequent appeal to the Court of Three Judges.

Justice Woo noted that while there was overlapping work, the case was vigorously contested by Dr Lim, involved complex issues of both law and fact, and was "document intensive", with 12,531 pages involved before the disciplinary hearings.

During the appeal, the SMC's lawyers had prepared a 232-page table of references to invoices issued by Dr Lim relating to some charges.

Justice Woo also raised the fees of the legal assessors and experts, the bulk of which was the $235,000 claim for the assessor in the second disciplinary hearing.

Justice Woo said he did not think the rate of $1,050 per hour charged by Senior Counsel Vinodh Coomaraswamy was unreasonable, in view of the complexities of the case. He noted that, given what had happened in the first inquiry, the assessor for the second inquiry had to be extra careful to ensure that the second committee did not "trip up".

Dr Lim was brought before two disciplinary committees for overcharging the sister of the Queen of Brunei. The first committee disqualified itself after her lawyers claimed that it had prejudged the case.

In 2012, she was found guilty by the second committee and suspended for three years, censured and fined $10,000. Her appeal was dismissed in 2013.

selinal@sph.com.sg