Kuhnau v. Manpower, Inc.

Kuhnau v. Manpower, Inc., WC 14-5769, W.C.C.A. February 17, 2015

The employee’s attorney petitioned the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals for Roraff fees associated with time expended in representing the employee in a 2013 appeal.   The W.C.C.A. denied the request for additional fees on appeal because the Petition submitted by the employee’s attorney did not conform to the specific requirements of statute, case law and court procedural rules.

In June 2013 the employee appealed a workers’ compensation judge’s Order denying the request that his wife be paid an hourly rate for her services in driving from their home in Alexandria to the Twin Cities for medical appointments associated with his work related injury when he was medically unable to drive. The W.C.C.A. reversed the compensation judge’s denial of payment and also remanded the matter to the compensation judge to determine a reasonable value for such services.   Our law firm reported on this case when it was decided in 2013.

As part of the W.C.C.A.’s decision, the employee’s attorney was awarded $1,250 for fees on appeal under Minn. Stat. 176.511, Subd. 3.  No appeal resulted from that decision to award fees.  The employer and insurer paid the fee award in December 2013.

The employee’s attorney then filed a Statement of Attorney’s Fees with the W.C.C.A. seeking Roraff fees for almost $4,000 for attorney and paralegal time spent in preparation of the 2013 appeal to the W.C.C.A.  This Statement of Fees was filed on October 27, 2014.   The employer and insurer filed an Objection to the Statement on October 30, 2014.

Historically the W.C.C.A. has construed the applicable statutes and rules to establish that a petition seeking attorney’s fees related to an appeal before the court should be filed within 45 days of the court’s decision.  However, there is statutory authority which permits the W.C.C.A. to raise the issue of fees “at any time” in a work comp matter.  Despite this, the W.C.C.A. declined to exercise that discretion because in this case the fees were a settled issue and significant time had passed.  The court, therefore, adhered to the 45-day rule and declined to re-open the question of fees on appeal.