Margaret Faith Rimmer
Margaret Faith Rimmer Courier Mail

The jailed lawyer with a pending million-dollar civil claim

A PROMINENT former Maleny lawyer who is in jail for fraud still has a nearly million dollar civil case pending against her doctor.

Margaret Faith Rimmer pleaded guilty to four charges of fraud involving taking $890,000 from her mostly-elderly clients' trust accounts on February 6.

Judge Richard Jones gave Ms Rimmer a five-year sentence, suspended after serving 20 months.

Supreme Court documents obtained by the Sunshine Coast Daily this week showed Ms Rimmer still had a civil case pending against her doctor, Dr Zoltan Maxwell Jordan Bourne, for damages for negligence and a breach of contract.

The case, first filed in October 2015, argued the prescription of the drug, Sifrol, to treat Ms Rimmer's restless leg syndrome contributed to her gambling addiction.

She was claiming a total of $982,500 for pain and suffering, loss of income, economic loss, medical costs, ongoing treatment and future expenses.

On October 14 last year, Ms Rimmer's solicitor Helen Ashton of law firm MurphySchmidt filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court request the claim be renewed for a "further 12 months".

This was to allow the "necessary steps to be undertaken to satisfy the terms of the Order and enable the Claim and Statement of Claim to be served".

Ms Rimmer's statement of claim showed she was prescribed Sifrol for restless leg syndrome in October 2008.

The medication had known side effects causing compulsive behaviour causing increased gambling and or sexual desire as well as impulse control disorder.

Between July 2011 and August 2012, the court documents claim she consulted Dr Bourne's practice and was prescribed 750 micrograms of the medication a day.

In October 2012, Ms Rimmer was referred by Dr Bourne to a neurologist who asked her if she had any of the potential side effects including gambling or "abhorrent sexual behaviour".

She allegedly said she "had been gambling recently, but had not been before".

The neurologist advised her to consult with her GP to discuss the ongoing prescription of the medication.

Dr Bourne allegedly received a letter from the neurologist.

It advised Ms Rimmer "has been losing money at the pokies recently and I have warned her this could be a complication of the Sifrol treatment and she should avoid the pokies, and if that can't be done, avoid the Sifrol".

Ms Rimmer allegedly told her doctor on October 29, 2012 about the neurologist's report and that she had been gambling but had "taken steps to ban herself from gambling at the Maleny Hotel".

Dr Bourne provided another prescription for Sifrol and, the court document claimed, continued to do so until December 2014.

"On each and every occasion of the subsequent attendances the defendant did not enquire of the plaintiff whether or not she was continuing to gamble," the statement of claim said

Further, Ms Bourne's prescribed dosage of Sifrol allegedly increased to the point where it was doubled in March 2014.

This, Ms Rimmer argued, caused her suffer a "compulsive gabling addiction".

She argued it was caused by negligence as the defendant "failed to enquire" whether she was gambling and continued to prescribe medication.

In passing sentence in the criminal matter Judge Richard Jones said the medication Sifrol had a "material contribution to the offending".

But he argued she "still knew what she was doing as she tried to cover the dishonesty up".

Medical negligence lawyer Sarah Dennis, who viewed the court documents for the Daily, said Ms Rimmer would still need to prove on the "balance of probabilities the prescription of the medication caused her compulsive gambling addiction".

"Whilst there is a recognised link between Sifrol and compulsive behaviours, it is a matter for expert medical evidence to be obtained by the parties to litigation," she said.

Dr Bourne's office referred the matter to his legal firm, Avant Mutual Group Limited.

Both Dr Bourne's legal firm and Ms Rimmer's legal firm declined to comment.

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