A Hod Hasharon family who paid almost NIS 149,000 to the local Planning and Construction Committee for the improvement of their land has won a court battle against having to pay the sum again, even though the committee never received the money because the family's lawyer pocketed it, reports www.local.co.il. A judge in the Kfar Saba Magistrates' Court ruled in favor of the family last week, saying the committee had been neglectful and that public bodies had a duty to act more cautiously. According to the report, the trouble began five years ago, after the family, from Hod Hasharon, applied to the committee for a building permit for their land on Rehov Nahal Pratzim. The family was charged NIS 148,750 for the improvement of the land, which they paid through their then-lawyer. The lawyer gave a personal check to the committee, which allowed building work to begin even without depositing the check. But when the lawyer suddenly passed away, it became clear that the check was worthless and that the money paid by the family had never reached the committee and had disappeared into the lawyer's pockets. The committee demanded that the family pay the full sum, but the family took the matter to court, saying they had already paid once and should not be required to pay for a second time. Now a judge in the Kfar Saba Magistrates' Court has ruled in favor of the family, saying the committee's agreement to accept the advance check, without ever depositing it, constituted an agreement with the lawyer, and had left the innocent family believing that all was in order. He said the fact that the lawyer had cheated the committee was its problem, not the family's. The judge also said the committee's negligence had been "grave" in accepting the personal check and allowing work to go ahead, instead of demanding a proper bank guarantee before doing so. He said that as a public body the committee had a duty to behave professionally and cautiously for the benefit of the public. He ruled that the family did not have to pay the sum again, and even ordered the committee to pay them NIS 35,000 in legal expenses.