Attorney Fees: Fee Dispute

Pinnow v. Montana State Fund, 2007 MT 332, 340 Mont. 217, 172 P.3d 1273 Nothing in § 39-71-613, MCA, confers jurisdiction on the Department of Labor and Industry to resolve attorney’s fees disputes. Therefore, the WCC has jurisdiction over the dispute.
Pinnow v. Halverson, Sheehy & Plath [12/19/08] 2008 MTWCC 53 In considering a claimant’s contingent fee contract with her attorney, this Court accepts the approved contract as having a strong presumption in its favor. Petitioner’s former attorney achieved a settlement of her claim for $131,000; prior to his involvement in the case, Petitioner was not offered any amount to settle her claim. The exhibits and testimony demonstrated that Petitioner’s former attorney handled the claim skillfully and diligently and achieved a favorable settlement. The attorney’s preparation of the case, including having a life care plan prepared, contributed to the success of the settlement. Furthermore, Petitioner ultimately accepted the settlement amount. The evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that Petitioner did not meet her burden of proof in overcoming the approved contract’s strong presumption. Respondent is therefore entitled to its fee and costs as set forth in the attorney fee agreement.
Pinnow v. Halverson, Sheehy & Plath [12/19/08] 2008 MTWCC 53 Where the record demonstrates that Petitioner was dissatisfied with every aspect of the handling of her claim, this affects the weight and credibility the Court gives to Petitioner’s dissatisfaction with the services of her attorney. While the record demonstrates that Petitioner’s former counsel handled her claim in a skillful and competent manner, the record further demonstrates that Petitioner was unlikely to be satisfied with his representation regardless of the results achieved.
Briese v. MACo Workers' Compensation Trust [11/24/08] 2008 MTWCC 50 Where an attorney and claimant entered into an Attorney Fee Agreement entitling the attorney to a percentage of the claimant’s recovery “due to the efforts of the attorney,” the attorney sought a determination that his client was the sole beneficiary of benefits arising from her estranged husband’s death, the attorney argued that the children were not entitled to any benefits, and the claimant subsequently entered into a settlement agreement stipulating that her minor children shall receive 100 percent of any and all workers’ compensation benefits payable, the Court concludes that the attorney is not entitled to an attorney fee on the benefits payable to the children.

Stumvoll v. Lauridsen [10/28/98] 1998 MTWCC 78 Under a standard fee agreement between claimant and her attorney, the attorney was entitled to receive "twenty percent (20%) of the amount of additional compensation payments the claimant receives due to the efforts of the attorney" if the matter was settled without an order of the workers' compensation judge or Supreme Court. Where the insurer had denied claimant was permanently totally disabled and the claimant's attorney thereafter obtained a concession that claimant is PTD, the attorney obtained additional benefits for claimant and was entitled to twenty-percent of PTD payments. See, Madill v. State Compensation Ins. Fund, 280 Mont. 280, 930 P.2d 665 (1997).

Schofield v. Chris Giovetti [2/7/96] 1996 MTWCC 12 WCC affirmed order of DOL hearing officer that attorney was not entitled to 20% of PPD benefits where fee contract allowed fees on benefits obtained "due to the efforts of the attorney" and claimant ultimately received amount of PPD benefits computed and offered by adjuster without input or involvement of attorney. The fact that claimant, on attorneys advice, went to mediation on request for additional PPD benefits does not change the fact that no additional PPD benefits were obtained due to efforts of attorney. Attorney awarded 20% of rehabilitation benefits, which were obtained with his efforts.