Portuguese law student wins David v Goliath court battle in UK

A 21-year-old Portuguese law student studying in London is this week celebrating the kind of victory that should assure a brilliant career.

Alexandra da Silva challenged a British law firm for trying to hold back the assets of a 69-year-old illiterate Madeiran woman, and won.

The elderly woman will now be given access to the €200,000 she was awarded in compensation for having been run over in 2006, while Hansen Palomares Solicitors may be left to enjoy the kind of notoriety no legal firm could relish.

Jornal de Notícias carries the full story, explaining that Alexandra’s ‘client’ Ângela Maria Sousa Baptista has lived 40 years in the UK, but never learnt to read or write.

When she was run over and left with serious consequences, solicitors’ office Hansen Palomares of Kennington Road, Lambeth, “dealt with the case” – invoking their client’s mental incapacity when it came to the adjudication of damages.

The elderly woman had been trying to no avail ever since to “revert the situation” and take control of her assets, explains JN.

Then Fate played a hand, and she met young Alexandra in Stockwell’s “F.C. Porto” restaurant.

Alexandra listened to the story and did some thinking.

She was not yet qualified to practice (she still isn’t), but the existence of “Litigation Friends” in English Law means that she was well within her rights to represent her fellow national in court.

This is precisely what the 3rd year student did.

She “advanced with a request to the court to consider the case” and presented proof that Ângela Sousa Baptista is mentally sane and fully capable of running her own affairs.

“An independent doctor called in by the court” did exactly the same, and “just a few days ago”, the order finally came through: Âlexandra Sousa Baptista is to be given the €200,000 awarded to her four agonising years ago.

“It was a huge struggle”, her “guardian angel” told JN. “We talking about a huge amount of money, and the lawyers always argued that the woman was not capable.

“It was a battle, but around a week ago the court ruling arrived. The judge has severed ties between them (the lawyers) and Dona Ângela, and determined that the firm has until October 3 to return her all the money, and present accounts”.

‘Dona Ângela’ is “radiant”. She told JN that as far as she is concerned Alexandra da Silva is indeed her guardian angel.

Hansen Palomares Solicitors may see things differently. JN stresses that the firm has 21 days to present an appeal.

Meantime, the story is apparently being picked up by the British daily The Independent.

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