Pattison v. Hartford Hospital
In the 2004 case of DiLieto v. New Haven, the Compensation Review Board held that the trial commissioner has the discretion to determine a reasonable fee and the board "will not overturn a fee award unless there is evidence of the trial commissioner’s abuse of that discretion." The claimant, David Pattison, appealed from the trial commissioner’s finding and decision determining that Pattison’s former attorney, Alan Wein, was entitled to legal fees and expenses resulting from his representation of the claimant. The claimant argued that his former counsel did not earn his fees. Finding no abuse of discretion, the Compensation Review Board affirmed the finding and decision. The board noted that this was essentially a factual determination and, as an appellate panel, it must respect the fact-finding role of the trial commissioner. The claimant terminated his relationship with Wein on Oct. 28, 2011 and began receiving specific award benefits on Nov. 10, 2011 due to the granting of a Form 36. The commissioner concluded that Wein provided legal services on behalf of the claimant from Jan. 30, 2009 to Oct. 28, 2011, for a total in excess of 110 hours. Pursuant to the fee agreement, Wein and his law firm were found entitled to a fee of 20 percent of the entire specific award the claimant was receiving plus $17.55 for legal expenses. The commissioner ordered the fee deducted at a rate of 20 percent from whatever further award payments were due to the claimant. After reviewing the record, the board was satisfied that the commissioner was proffered sufficient documentary evidence and testimony which he found credible to sustain the decision. The claimant raised issues as to his counsel’s actions pertaining to a third-party action. This was outside the scope of the board’s consideration of whether Wein was owed a fee for appearing at compensation hearings. The claimant also alleged that his counsel was disrespectful to him. While this may explain his decision to cease retaining Wein’s services, it did not act to negate the counsel’s prior time and expenses rendered on the claimant’s behalf. The claimant’s challenge to the commissioner’s finding that Wein has a possible claim for fees against the proposed settlement of the claim was not ripe for adjudication.