Lung disease victim sues giant law firm
A former stonemason suffering from deadly silicosis disease is suing his solicitors Shine Lawyers after claiming they took more than half his workers compensation package of almost a million dollars in legal fees and costs.
Karl Bartosek received $975,000 in compensation in 2018 after contracting silicosis while working as a stonemason for 14 years from his early 20s.
In Queensland alone, there have been 164 workers compensation claims for silicosis from stonemasons, including 22 advancing to progressive massive fibrosis and requiring lung transplant surgery for survival.
According to a claim lodged in the Brisbane Supreme Court by Mr Bartosek, 42, the disease left him reliant on medications for the rest of his life, an inability to father a child and reduce capacity for manual work.
But of the $975,000 in compensation, Shine Lawyers' legal bill including fees and outlays came to more than $652,000 leaving him with $315,000.
However, Shine says allegations about its treatment of Mr Bartosek are "scandalous and false" and that fees in Queensland are capped at 50 per cent of the net amount received by a client.
The case was settled at mediation and did not proceed to a trial. Mr Bartosek is now suing Shine for $700,000 on the basis the cost agreement he signed with the law firm, whose motto is "We are Here for You", was not fair and reasonable.
In his court claim, Mr Bartosek said Shine Lawyers' solicitors on the Gold Coast initially told him he had a "good case and somebody should answer for it."
But Mr Bartosek alleges he was not given an opportunity to read or consider a conditional costs agreement detailing the law firm's range of fees and cost dependent on the success of the case.
He was allegedly told by the firm's solicitors that everyone had to sign a costs agreement but was not told he had a right to negotiate a cost agreement with the law firm, obtain independent legal advice could the agreement or request an itemised bill.
According to his claim, Shine received $470,975.15 from the compensation settlement with two barristers receiving a total of $78,250.
But in a statement to the Courier-Mail, Shine says the allegations about Shine's treatment of the client at the initial conference and throughout the carriage of the landmark dust diseases claim were wrong.
"Legal fees in Queensland are capped at 50 per cent of the net amount received by the client and, contrary to the suggestions from (his solicitor), Shine Lawyers not only complied with this rule but extended a further generous discount to Mr Barsolek's fees," Shine said. "Allegations to the contrary .. are fundamentally wrong."
Shine had invited Mr Bartosek's lawyer to withdraw all allegations and expected him to do so. Shine has not as yet lodged a defence.
Originally published as Lung disease victim sues Shine Law over legal costs