Perusal and local practices

Can counsel’s advice on evidence be recovered?
July 11, 2017

“The act of perusing or considering a document or letter should be held to mean the application of a trained legal mind to the contents of the document in question.” – Thornycroft Cartage Co v Beier & Co (Pty) Ltd & Another 1962 (3) SA 26 (N)

“The fee for perusing is for the professional consideration which is required to determine what steps ought to be taken for the client” – Cobb v Levy 1978 (4) SA 459 (T)

Although the tariff(s) makes provision for charges in respect of perusal of documents and although one would expect that such tariff will be applied on every occasion when perusal takes place, that is not necessarily the case.  As we know the Taxing Master has a discretion to depart from the tariff should a strict application thereof appear unreasonable or unjust. As a result certain alternate practices has come into being in respect of perusal fees in the various divisions.

In the Western Cape Division the fee for an initial (first) perusal is usually allowed as per the tariff. However, and in respect of the perusal of voluminous and bulky documents, a local practice has developed whereby our Taxing Masters (in the exercise of his/her discretion) sometimes allow the perusal  on a time basis as opposed to applying the tariff, even if it is an initial (first) perusal. This is usually determined at the rate of 40 pages per hour.

Similarly when the attorney is perusing documents for the purpose of discovery (which is in reality a second perusal), the preferred local practice is to also allow such perusal  on a time and at 40 pages per hour.

Thus, when presenting or opposing any bill of costs, awareness of these local practices will go a long way in determining the successful outcome of the taxation process, or not !