Claim lawyer overcharged buddy

Eion Castles charged more than $1 million to help sort out a leaky building problem. Photo / Dean Purcell
Eion Castles charged more than $1 million to help sort out a leaky building problem. Photo / Dean Purcell

A lawyer is facing a disciplinary tribunal after he charged his golf buddy more than $1 million to help sort out legal problems created by his leaky Remuera home.

Eion Castles appeared before the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal at the Auckland District Court yesterday accused of overcharging the former client almost $600,000.

Mr Castles charged the man, with whom he played golf at Titirangi Golf Club, $1,030,000 - well above the $436,000 cost assessors estimated his work would have cost.

The complainant, a former company director whose name is suppressed, told the tribunal yesterday he had bought a townhouse in Remuera in 1996. It was later identified as a leaky building.

Mr Castles was brought in by the complainant in 2003 to help sue his former lawyer after problems getting a payout from the then Auckland City Council for the townhouse. Mr Castles told him the money needed to repair his leaky home could be recovered from the former lawyer, describing the case as "watertight".

Mr Castles then represented the complainant, suing the former lawyer for professional negligence while continuing a claim against the council up until 2006.

John Katz, QC, acting on behalf of the Law Society, said Mr Castles used the complainant as a "cash cow" to fund his entire practice. After selling the Remuera property in 2006, the complainant had "sold the last of the family silver", Mr Katz said.

The complainant continued to throw good money after bad trying to recoup his costs. The cost of the work done by Mr Castles should have been $436,000, not $1,030,000.

Mr Castles managed to recover $650,000 for the complainant in 2008 but it fell well short of his fee. In early 2009 the complainant took his concerns over Castle's alleged overcharging to the Law Society.

Brian Keene, QC, acting for Mr Castles, disputed his client had said that the case was watertight, and it was far from a conventional leaky building claim.

The case, which is being heard by tribunal members Peter Shaw, Mary Scholtens, QC, Judge Dale Clarkson, Wayne Chapman and Christine Rowe, continues today. APNZ


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