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Christian Petrucci of the Law Offices of Christian Petrucci. Christian Petrucci of the Law Offices of Christian Petrucci.

Recently, we discussed the unreasonable contest counsel fee demand and the appellate courts’ recent willingness to take awarding attorney fees seriously, in light of the fact that unreasonable contest counsel fees are traditionally, almost never awarded. Even in the most egregious situations, unreasonable contest fees are granted in nominal amounts that are rarely ever collected due to a blanket stay placed on all such awards by the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board. The September 2020 Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court case of Gabriel v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Procter and Gamble Products), signaled a heightened anticipation that an attorney can be compensated in cases that lack a wage-loss benefit award since in that case, the court found that the employer presented an unreasonable contest in failing to timely issue a bureau document, which is a very common occurrence that rarely goes punished, and forcing the claimant to litigate issues that were really not in dispute.

While Gabriel afforded hope to the claimant’s bar that an attorney can take a case with seemingly no pecuniary benefit for reasons other than those pro bono, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is now considering whether the act actually calls for the expansion of employer-funded attorney fees in nonfee generating cases, even where there is a reasonable basis for the contest. In Lorino v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania), the Supreme Court granted the claimant’s petition for allowance of appeal in a case where there was no wage loss and no unreasonable contest, but the claimant’s attorney was seeking a fee, nonetheless.

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