Leading psychiatrist on brink of losing $1.4m North Adelaide mansion over a $2084 car crash
Andrew Hough and Tom Bowden
July 27, 2016
Dr Helen Marmanidis was sued over a “minor” bingle with Samuel Germein, 35, near her Victorian-era terrace home in November 2012 after she reversed into his Alfa Romeo hatchback.
But Dr Marmanidis, who is married to eminent eye specialist Dr Michael Hammerton, 61, faces the prospect of having her 126 year-old home, with a cellar, forcibly sold at auction on Friday.
The case has embroiled two of the state’s most senior judges after the psychiatrist pleaded with them to intervene and sought an explanation over court processes.
Authorities say the sale comes after she failed to repay the $2084 crash costs or challenge a legal judgment won almost three years ago by Mr Germein’s insurance company, the RAA, in the state’s small claims court.
The dispute over the Barton Tce West home, which overlooks the northern parklands and Adelaide Aquatic Centre, had not settled last night, meaning the auction would likely proceed. She will receive the balance of any sale proceeds after her debt is repaid.
Any sale price could be significantly less than the estimated $1.4 million value. Court documents show the total owing had increased last December to $3552 as interest, fees and other legal costs were added.
Dr Marmanidis, who is a mother-of-one aged in her fifties with 30 years’ medical experience, last night told The Advertiser she would not pay the money because she claimed she had never had an accident in her 1994 BMW coupe in 2012.
She has driven a new Mercedes Benz coupe since 2011. While she questioned the validity of the claim, Dr Marmanidis was prepared to enter mediation.
Court officials said “judgment was entered against her” in August 2013, but Dr Marmanidis claimed she wasn’t made aware of it until the following year.
She told of her distress at being ejected from her home, which still contained valuable possessions and sensitive medical files, meaning she could not adequately treat patients.
The locks were also changed.
“It is a highly unusual thing to have one’s property taken away by the Sheriff over a purported debt of $3000, for which I am not responsible,” she said.
“This is a democracy … we are not in Myanmar. It doesn’t feel like it is Australia. This is an odd situation.
“Never in my life have I done anything just because I have been told to do so. I am not going to pay the money.
“I feel it reflects very unsatisfactorily on the state of affairs if you rely on the legal and courts system to get justice.”
She attended one open inspection, handing out flyers to “beware” of the “illegitimate” auction, which forced officials to beef up security at subsequent showings.
The row began in 2012 when Dr Marmanidis allegedly reversed into Mr Germein’s car as he waited in North Adelaide traffic to make a right-hand turn.
The crash, which Dr Marmanidis denies being involved in, damaged the vehicle’s rear bumper and Mr Germein successfully claimed on his RAA policy. But repeated efforts by the insurer to recover the accident costs, including through the Adelaide Magistrates Court, failed.
The RAA won in August 2013 but Dr Marmanidis failed to pay or “take any steps to set aside the judgment” and a Warrant of Sale was issued by the Supreme Court almost eight months ago.
The state’s acting Sheriff, Steve Ferguson, seized the two-storey four-bedroom, two-bathroom home in May.
The dispute has embroiled Supreme Court Chief Justice Chris Kourakis and Chief Magistrate Judge Mary-Louise Hribal, both of whom Dr Marmanidis wrote to “often”.
Letters were also sent to other officials, including Attorney-General John Rau.
Courts Administration Authority officials invited the parties to mediation last week before retired Supreme Court Justice Timothy Anderson to avoid “disproportionate additional costs” but Dr Marmanidis was unavailable.
Mr Germein, an IT specialist from the northern suburbs, yesterday expressed shock at the auction over “minor cosmetic damage”.
“It was a perfectly innocent accident and a minor one,” he said.
“It is easily done. It happens. I just claimed for it and I thought, ‘That is it, it is done’. I don’t hold any malice towards her. It was just a car accident. I am surprised.”
Klemich Real Estate agent Marina Ormsby, who is conducting the sale with colleague Richard Hayward, said the auction would go ahead unless there was a settlement.
“The actual owner of the property has up until the auction to sort the matter out, so at the moment we’re still scheduled to go ahead but that could change at some point,” she said. In a statement last night on behalf of the courts, Judge Hribal said the insurer “was entitled to seek enforcement of the judgment”.
“The insurer unsuccessfully attempted to recover the judgment through a range of enforcement processes over a period of more than two years after the judgment,” she said.
“At any time, Dr Marmanidis can pay what is owing and avoid the sale of the house. The enforcement of this order is being followed appropriately by the Sheriff.”
An RAA spokeswoman declined to comment.