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Law firm in hot water for ditching client, aged 93, who changed her mind on property sale

Cape Town – A judge has suggested the Legal Practice Council (LPC) investigate the conduct of a property law and conveyancing firm for turning against their 93-year-old client who changed her mind about a property sale at the last minute and sold it to someone else instead.

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In April, the client, Catherine McShane, concluded a written agreement via property law and conveyancing firm May and Associates Inc to sell Platinum Property Enterprise, a plot of vacant land in Yzerfontein, for R860 000.

Platinum paid the purchase price in full but then McShane refused to sign the transfer documents, saying she was cancelling the offer to purchase her property.

May and Associates told McShane her refusal was unlawful; they now held instructions from Platinum to proceed with legal proceedings against her.

Meanwhile, Platinum discovered McShane had sold the property to another purchaser and approached the High Court on an urgent basis to interdict the transfer of the property to any third party.

Judge James Lekhuleni had to consider whether McShane validly cancelled the sale agreement and whether a punitive costs order would be appropriate.

Judge James Lekhuleni. Picture: Supplied

Judge Lekhuleni found McShane’s sale cancellation was invalid but he took on May and Associates for switching sides.

He said a clause of the sale agreement made it “abundantly clear” that they had been appointed by McShane.

Judge Lekhuleni said it was regrettable that May and Associates “jettisoned” McShane’s instructions and, instead, took instructions from Platinum against her.

The conveyancer’s conduct was “unsettling and highly concerning”, he said, and told the court registrar to forward a copy of the judgment to the LPC for possible investigation of the conduct of May and Associates.

On costs, Judge Lekhuleni said: “The first respondent is an elderly person. The time has come for courts to bear in mind the Ubuntu principle, emphasising empathy and compassion for a fellow man, especially the elderly, like the first respondent.”

mwangi.githahu@inl.co.za

Cape Argus

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