The Employee suffered a slip and fall, injuring her head, left elbow, and back. She filed a claim petition seeking TTD and payment of medical expenses. The employer and insurer denied primary liability.
The compensation judge found she sustained a work injury and was TTD from January 28 through February 11, 2012 and that she fully recovered with no residual disability by May 21, 2012. The Judge also denied all of the intervenors due to their failure to personally attend the hearing. The Employee appealed that she recovered by May 21, 2012, the denial of TTD after February 11, 2012, and whether certain medical treatment was reasonable, necessary, or causally related. Two intervenors cross appealed.
The WCCA affirmed the denial of the intervenors’ claims, reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded on various issues. The intervenors appealed to the Supreme Court, which affirmed.
The issues on remand were the date of the employee’s recovery, the employee’s restrictions, ability to work, wage loss benefits, which medical expenses were reasonable, necessary, and causally related to the work injury, and whether certain intervenors were entitled to reimbursement. The compensation judge found she recovered on May 29, 2012 and was entitled to TTD to that date, denied the intervention claims and direct claims for medical.
The Employee appealed the date of recovery, the denial of TTD, denial of claims for treatment, and denial of payment to intervenors. The Employer cross appealed the finding that the medical treatment through May 29, 2012 was reasonable, necessary, and causally related.
The WCCA affirmed this decision. It was appealed and the Supreme Court affirmed without opinion. The Employee’s attorney was awarded attorney fees of $3,000 from the WCCA and $1,200 from the Supreme Court.
The Employee’s attorney filed a statement of attorney fees for contingent fess of $3,158.00, Roraff fees of $71,693.00, costs of $5,211.00 and Subdivision 7 fees. After hearing, the compensation judge ordered payment of the $3,158.00 in contingent fees withheld from the TTD and awarded $1,067.55 in contingent fees on the medical expenses, $5,211.00 in costs and $7,500 in Roraff and Subdivision 7 fees. The Employee appealed the amount of Roraff fees awarded.
The WCCA affirmed the compensation judge’s finding that the Roraff fees awarded was in the reasonable range given the record and upheld the decision. The compensation judge’s findings were supported by substantial evidence.
The WCCA noted that the compensation judge found the contingent fees from the TTD and the dollar value from the medical benefits was inadequate to reasonably compensate the attorney. The compensation judge applied the factors laid out in Irwin and found the following:
- The monetary value of the medical services at issue was significant
- Time expended on the matter was reasonable
- The $600.00 an hour billing rate charged by lead counsel was unreasonable and excessive
- The billing rate charged by other attorney and paralegals was within the range of reasonable fees
- Responsibility assumed by counsel was significant
- Counsel was experienced and capable workers’ compensation attorney
- The difficulty of the issues and nature of proof involved were not complex
- Results obtained for the Employee were limited.
When the compensation judge’s findings are supported by substantial evidence and the judge applied the appropriate legal analysis, the decision will be upheld. Also, $600 an hour in 2019 is excessive.