Are Attorney Fees Available Even With a Reasonable Contest?

Christian Petrucci of Christian Petrucci’s law firms.

Recently, we discussed the unreasonable competition attorney fee claim and the recent willingness of the appeals courts to take legal fees seriously given that unreasonable competition attorney fees are traditionally almost never awarded. In even the most egregious of situations, unfair competition fees are granted in nominal amounts that are seldom collected due to a flat-rate residency granted by the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board for all of these awards. The September 2020 Commonwealth Court in Pennsylvania case of Gabriel v Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Procter and Gamble Products) signaled an increased expectation that an attorney could be compensated in cases where there is no loss of earnings compensation in the case, as that Court found that the employer presented inappropriate competition by not issuing an office document in a timely manner, which is a very common occurrence that is rarely punished, and forcing the applicant to sue about issues that were really not controversial.

While Gabriel gave hope to the applicant’s bar association that an attorney might accept a case for no financial gain for reasons other than the gratuitous ones, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is currently examining whether the law would indeed extend employer-funded attorney fees in cases in which incur no fees, even if there is a reasonable basis for competition. In Lorino v Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania), the Supreme Court granted the applicant’s request for leave to appeal if there was no loss of wages and unfair competition but the applicant’s attorney requested a fee.

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