Reasonable Sum for Litigation Costs In Workers Comp Cases

In SKF USA, Inc. v. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (Smalls), 728 A.2d 385, 387 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1999), the Court held that a remand for computation of benefits did not involve administrative discretion. The question is whether the remand here requires the exercise of discretion by the Workers' Compensation Judge (WCJ). Section 440(a) of the Workers' Compensation Act (Act), Act of June 2, 1915, P.L. 736, as amended, 77 P.S. 996(a), authorizes an award to a claimant for a "reasonable sum for litigation costs." It states, in relevant part, as follows: In any contested case where the insurer has contested liability in whole or in part, ... the employe or his dependent, as the case may be, in whose favor the matter at issue has been finally determined in whole or in part shall be awarded, in addition to the award for compensation, a reasonable sum for costs incurred for attorney's fee, witnesses, necessary medical examination, and the value of unreimbursed lost time to attend the proceedings: Provided, That cost for attorney fees may be excluded when a reasonable basis for the contest has been established by the employer or the insurer. 77 P.S. 996(a). The trigger to an award is where a "matter at issue has been finally determined in whole or in part" in favor of a claimant. Id. Employer asserts that the calculation of "reasonable" litigation costs inherently requires the exercise of discretion and, thus, the Board's interlocutory order is not appealable under Pa. R.A.P. 311(f).