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CRB Case Annotations re: Section 31-327

[Formerly § 31-319]

Fee approval.


Full texts of opinions, statutes and court decisions should be consulted and all citations and references fully researched by the reader.

The Annotations to Compensation Review Board Opinions are presented “as is” and the Commission makes no warranties as to the suitability of this information for any given purpose.
Please note also that Annotations change periodically due to several factors including, but not limited to, Appellate and Supreme Court decisions issued in workers’ compensation cases.

Frantzen v. Davenport Electric, 5990 CRB-7-15-2 (February 24, 2016).

Appellant, one of several attorneys who represented claimant during pendency of claim, challenged trial commissioner’s subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate dispute between counsel over division of approved attorneys’ fee. CRB, noting that appeal implicated scope of trier’s authority rather than subject matter jurisdiction, affirmed on basis that plain language of § 31-327(b) C.G.S. states that “all” attorneys’ fees “shall be subject to the approval of the commissioner.” Appellant also claimed as error trial commissioner’s decision to split escrowed fee 50/50 absent a full evidentiary hearing. Noting that trier’s statements at formal hearing indicated her inquiry would be limited to an examination of Commission’s authority to adjudicate fee dispute, and appellant had never submitted statement of time and charges substantiating claim for attorneys’ fees, CRB reversed fee apportionment findings and remanded for additional proceedings. CRB also denied Motion to Dismiss for appellant’s failure to timely file Reasons of Appeal, holding that appellee was not unduly prejudiced by three-week delay and dismissal would cause needless delay given that escrow disbursement could not occur except by agreement of parties, deemed unlikely, or additional litigation. See also, Frantzen, § 31-301 Factual Findings; § 31-301-2.

Kinsey v. World Pac, 5783 CRB-7-12-10 (September 17, 2013).

Claimant sought sanctions for undue delay in respondent making payments and providing COLA adjustments. Trial commissioner awarded claimant’s counsel award under § 31-300 C.G.S. for time spent prior to informal hearing wherein respondents offered to pay sanctions to settle dispute. Claimant appealed claiming commissioner should have recused herself and demanded trial de novo. CRB affirmed decision. Trial commissioner has broad latitude under statute to manage proceedings and consider evidence. Claimant’s counsel also asserted that sanction should have included paralegal time. CRB affirmed trial commissioner’s decision to contrary, statute does not mention paralegals and attorney fees award are within her discretion. See also, Kinsey, § 31-278; § 31-288; § 31-298; § 31-300.

Pattison v. Hartford Hospital, 5784 CRB-1-12-9 (September 10, 2013).

Claimant discharged attorney, and attorney sought approval for fees earned prior to discharge. Trial commissioner found counsel had expended time and expense and claimant had received specific award; and awarded counsel fee against that award. Claimant appealed, arguing counsel had been disrespectful and relationship deteriorated. CRB affirmed award; breakdown of attorney-client relationship did not negate prior efforts on client’s behalf.

Fletcher v. Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., 5510 CRB-4-09-11 (October 4, 2010).

Claimant asserted attorney did not cause respondents to pay him a cost-of-living adjustment and therefore he did not owe counsel an attorney fee. Attorney presented evidence he attended numerous hearings on claimant’s behalf. Trial commissioner approved fee. Claimant appealed. CRB affirmed. Appeal was filed late and statute deprived commission of jurisdiction over late appeal when no explanation offered for delay. Even had case been decided on the merits, matter involved weighing of evidence and appellate panel cannot reverse result. See also, Fletcher, § 31-301. Appeal procedure.

Doustou v. State/Dept. Mental Health & Addiction Services, 5384 CRB-8-08-10. (September 23, 2009).

CRB reversed commissioner’s determination as to the amount of claimant’s counsel’s attorney’s fee as the basis for fee was not articulated. See also, Doustou, § 31-301. Factual findings.

Dilieto v. New Haven, 4709 CRB-3-03-8 (August 5, 2004).

CRB affirmed trial commissioner’s distribution of attorney’s fees between claimant’s former and current counsel where there was no evidence of abuse of discretion.

Smith v. Harrow Industries Inc., 4662 CRB-8-03-4 (March 31, 2004), appeal dismissed for lack of final judgment, A.C. 25334 (September 14, 2004).

See, Smith v. SRS Communications Corp., 4661 CRB-8-03-4 (March 31, 2004), appeal dismissed for lack of final judgment, A.C. 25333 (September 14, 2004), infra.

Smith v. SRS Communications Corp., 4661 CRB-8-03-4 (March 31, 2004), appeal dismissed for lack of final judgment, A.C. 25333 (September 14, 2004).

CRB affirmed trial commissioner’s finding of jurisdiction regarding fee dispute between claimant’s counsel and that attorney’s former law firm.

Toth v. American Frozen Foods, Inc., 4069 CRB-4-99-6 (August 9, 2000).

CRB remanded case to trier for articulation of method used in determining attorney’s fee for claimant’s counsel, as he did not explain the basis of his calculation, nor was it apparent from the record.

Prioli v. State/Connecticut State Library/Arts Commission, 3955 CRB-6-98-12 (January 13, 2000), aff’d, 64 Conn. App. 301 (2001), cert. denied, 258 Conn. 917 (2001).

Appellant, claimant’s former counsel, had procured § 31-290a award for claimant. Initially, a 20% attorney’s fee had been negotiated; however, after entry of retaliatory discharge finding several months prior to the rather substantial award, the appellant requested that the claimant sign a form entitling him to one-third of the gross award as an attorney’s fee. Trier subsequently awarded the appellant a fee of $50,000; both parties appealed, but later withdrew appeals when a settlement was reached that prescribed that the respondent would pay $90,000 in counsel fees. Shortly thereafter, the appellant submitted an account reconciliation to the claimant that deducted $130,254 as an attorney’s fee, along with almost $8,000 in additional charges. Claimant disputed this fee, and hired new counsel. After a formal hearing, a trial commissioner ruled that a reasonable attorney’s fee was $75,000, inclusive of the prior $50,000 award. Appellant unsuccessfully moved to modify that decision, and then appealed to CRB. Board affirmed trier’s ruling. There was support in the evidence for all of the trier’s factual findings, including the lack of consideration for the subsequent fee agreement. No evidence that the appropriate factors relevant to a determination of attorney’s fees had not been considered. Trier reasonably chose not to allot the appellant additional fees. Also, cases do not establish that this Commission lacks jurisdiction to disturb a memorialized fee arrangement. Commissioner has general authority to approve fees in proceedings held before this commission. See also, Prioli, § 31-278, § 31-290a, § 31-301. Appeal procedure, § 31-301-9, § 31-315. Subsequent ruling in Prioli, 3955 CRB-6-98-12 (October 16, 2000), § 31-301c.

Contreras v. Montana Bakery, 3819 CRB-7-98-5 (June 16, 1999).

Trial commissioner divided attorney’s fee equally between original counsel and successor counsel. Successor counsel appealed, arguing that original counsel had mishandled case by misinterpreting the law regarding the eligibility of illegal aliens to receive temporary total disability benefits, by incorrectly treating their client as if he were an illegal alien, and by improperly withholding the file from him after original counsel’s services were terminated. CRB affirmed. Despite appellee’s failure to defend itself on appeal, the trier’s exercise of discretion had to be upheld, as there was some evidence to support his decision. Retention of file not necessarily improper under these facts. Credibility of testimony was matter of interpretation. See also, Contreras, § 31-301-9.

Yuille v. Bridgeport Hospital, 3735 CRB-4-97-12 (June 10, 1998).

Frivolous appeal, last-minute withdrawal. Sanctions awarded to claimant. See also, Yuille, § 31-301c, § 31-301. Appeal procedure. Subsequent decision at Yuille, 4525 CRB-4-02-5 (April 28, 2003).

Day v. Middletown, 16 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 200, 3264 CRB-8-96-2 (May 20, 1997), appeal dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, A.C. 17283 (September 17, 1997), cert. granted, 243 Conn. 939 (1997), rev’d and remanded to appellate court, 245 Conn. 437 (1998), aff’d, 59 Conn. App. 816 (2000), cert. denied, 254 Conn. 945 (2000).

Claimant argued that trier improperly awarded counsel $30,000 in attorney’s fees in light of prior agreement for $20,000. CRB agreed. Although a commissioner is not precluded from considering the amount of time an attorney has spent on a contested case in ruling on a fee or award, the $30,000 figure was primarily based on a prior commissioner’s recommendation that took into account the value of medical bills that the respondents paid pursuant to the settlement, which is improper under the Chairman’s fee guidelines. Moreover, the claimant signed a fee agreement with replacement counsel noting that fee approval by a commissioner would be necessary. The fact that said counsel was not a party to the settlement agreement that set a $20,000 fee did not make him immune to the effect of that agreement. Trier’s modification of settlement agreement reversed. Appellate Court then dismissed appeal. Supreme Court ruled in Day v. Middletown, 245 Conn. 437 (1998), that the Appellate Court should not have dismissed the defendant’s appeal for lack of jurisdiction, as § 31-301b allows an attorney to appeal a decision reducing his fee. On remand to Appellate Court, the panel affirmed the CRB’s reasoning in reducing the fee award, mainly citing this Commission’s attorney’s fee guidelines. See also, Day, § 31-301b.

Lapia v. Stratford, 15 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 422, 3109 CRB-4-95-6 (August 29, 1996), rev’d, 47 Conn. App. 391 (1997).

CRB affirmed trial commissioner’s order regarding attorney’s fees. The reasonableness of an attorney’s fee depends on many factors, and the actual amount which a commissioner may award for attorney’s fees is a matter within his or her discretion. Reversed by Appellate Court, which found that the claimant had been denied due process because the award of attorney’s fees had been made without notice to the claimant and the trial commissioner had engaged in ex parte communications with the claimant’s former attorney. The court therefore remanded the matter for a formal hearing to determine attorney’s fees. See also, Lapia, § 31-301. Appeal procedure.

Ayala v. Konover Residential Corp., 14 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 87, 1931 CRB-2-93-12 (May 12, 1995).

Claimant need not dispute attorney’s fee for commissioner to exercise supervisory power under § 31-327(b); plain language of statute makes attorney’s fees subject to approval of the commissioner. No abuse of discretion in reducing fee by five percent; attorney’s fee guidelines promulgated by Commission do not preclude commissioner from determining that less than 20 percent of stipulation amount is an appropriate fee in a given case.

McCrory v. White Oak Corporation, 10 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 108, 1262 CRD-1-91-7 (May 6, 1992).

Remanded. Trier approved attorney’s fee based on hourly rate plus a percentage of claimant’s recovery. CRB remanded in order to ascertain the proper basis for the fee awarded.

Tartakovsky v. Sohmer/Pratt & Read, 7 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 46, 666 CRD-8-87 (August 9, 1989).

See, Tartakovsky, § 31-300.

Gelinas v. St. Mary’s Hospital, 7 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 65, 705 CRD-88-3 (August 16, 1989).

See, Gelinas, § 31-294c.

Ricci v. Peabody N.E., Inc., 6 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 54, 738 CRD-3-88-6 (October 26, 1988).

See, Ricci, § 31-294c.

Bode v. Deitsch Plastic Co., 1 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 226, 131 CRD-3-82 (December 9, 1982).

Attorney’s fee of one third of claimant’s recovery disallowed, trial commissioner’s award of 20% upheld on appeal as CRD would not substitute its judgment for that of the trial commissioner.

Robinson v. Allied Grocers Cooperative, Inc., 1 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op.132, 68 CRD-1-81 (July 13, 1982), aff’d, 39 Conn. Sup. 386 (1983).

Discussion of counsel’s fees.


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