The NJ Appellate Court reversed and remanded a claim where the Judge of Compensation awarded a counsel fee to the claimant’s attorney $123,415. The reviewing tribunal deemed the fees based on a permanency award, a motion for medical and temporary benefits, and a motion for enforcement inconsistent with the reasonable method in determining fees.
The Appellate Division directed that the loadstar concept be utilized to determine a reasonable amount of attorney’s fees. The loadstar concept is used to determine counsel fees in court proceedings. It is based on the principle that the amount of counsel fees should be reasonable and proportional to the amount of work done by the counsel.
The loadstar concept considers various factors that may affect the amount of counsel fees, including the complexity of the case, the skill, and expertise of the counsel, the time and effort required to handle the case, and the importance of the case to the parties involved.
In determining counsel fees using the loadstar concept, the court will consider the following factors:
- The nature of the case: The more complex and difficult the case, the higher the counsel fees may be.
- The skill and expertise of the counsel: Counsel with specialized knowledge and experience in a particular area of law may be entitled to higher fees.
- The time and effort required to handle the case: Counsel fees may be higher if the case requires a significant amount of time and effort to be spent on it.
- The importance of the case: If the case has a significant impact on the parties involved, the counsel fees may be higher.
The loadstar concept is used as a guide in determining counsel fees and is not a fixed formula. The court has the discretion to adjust the counsel fees based on the case's specific circumstances.
Overall, the loadstar concept is an important factor in ensuring that counsel fees are reasonable and fair, and that they accurately reflect the work that has been done by counsel in representing their clients in court proceedings.
It held that the Judge of Compensation committed a reversible error for making a “reflexive application" of a twenty-percent award on the permanency application without fully analyzing the submitted fee application. A reasonable analysis was lacking and performed by mere rote math as o the fees assessed on the motion for temporary and medical benefits and alleged delay in payment, the judge of compensation. The administrative judge did not consider any mitigating circumstance for alleged delays or payment refusal. Furthermore, as to the motion to enforce the compensation judge did recognize the conflict between the claimant’s attorney's unsworn document and the supplemental affidavit submitted attesting to a total of twenty hours of work.
The matter was remanded to be heard before another judge of compensation to make a determination of reasonable counsel fees utilizing the lodestar concept.
UNPUBLISHED OPINION. CHECK COURT RULES BEFORE CITING.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
This opinion shall not “constitute precedent or be binding upon any court.” Although it is posted on the internet, this opinion is binding only on the parties in the case and its use in other cases is limited. R. 1:36-3. Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division.
Jon L. Gelman of Wayne, NJ, is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters). For over five decades, the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman 1.973.696.7900 email@example.com has been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.
Jon L. Gelman | Attorney at Law
Wayne NJ 07470-2805
firstname.lastname@example.org | www.gelmans.com
Blog: Workers ' Compensation
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Author: "Workers' Compensation Law" West-Thomson-Reuters