Can the Previously Determined Contingency Fee Agreement Be Changed Basing the Attorney's Compensation on Quantum Meruit by Wcj ?
In Anderson v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Watkins Motor Lines), 671 A.2d 299 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1996), the attorney and claimant entered into a 20% contingency fee agreement.
This agreement had been approved by the Workers' Compensation Judge (WCJ) as reasonable under Section 442 of the Act, 77 P.S. 998.
Subsequently, following litigation of the claim, the WCJ found employer's contest unreasonable, and awarded attorney's fees pursuant to Section 440 of the Act.
Although the WCJ had previously approved the 20% contingency fee agreement, the WCJ determined that the attorney's actual compensation should be determined on the basis of quantum meruit, thereby taking into account the actual number of hours the attorney worked, multiplied by the attorney's hourly rate.
The resulting award was less than what the attorney would have received under the approved 20% contingency agreement.
The claimant's attorney appealed this award, and the Board affirmed.
The attorney appealed to this Court, arguing that, because Section 442 allows for contingency fees of 20%, "such agreements are reasonable per se," and the WCJ abused his discretion by finding the agreement reasonable for purposes of Section 442 of the Act (dealing with counsel fees), but unreasonable for purposes of Section 440 of the Act (dealing with award of counsel fees by WCJ in contested case). Anderson, 671 A.2d at 301. the Court affirmed the Board.