Attorney's contingency fees limited by amount he substantially secured
Case name: Seiniger Law Offices, P.A. v. State of Idaho, ex rel., Industrial Commission, No. 38037, 2013 Opinion No. 21 (Idaho 02/22/13).
The Idaho Supreme Court held that an attorney was not entitled to fees for certain portions of workers' awards because he did not show his services primarily or substantially secured the funds.
What it means: In Idaho, to recover a contingent fee from a sum of money paid to an injured worker, the attorney must show that his services operated primarily or substantially to secure the fund.
Three injured workers retained an attorney to represent them in workers' compensation proceedings. The workers each signed a fee agreement agreeing to pay the attorney 25 percent of all amounts obtained for the client if the case was settled before a hearing. The agreement provided that the contingent fee applied to all amounts paid. An administrative rule stated that an attorney could recover a contingent fee if his services operated primarily or substantially to secure the fund. The cases settled before a hearing, and the attorney sought fees for the amounts received by the workers. The attorney challenged the validity of the rule. The Idaho Supreme Court upheld the validity of the rule and held that the attorney was not entitled to fees for certain portions of the workers' awards because he did not show his services primarily or substantially secured the funds.
The court found that the rule did not exceed the authority of the Industrial Commission. The attorney argued that the amount of fees should be left to the agreement between the attorney and the worker. The court found that the legislature granted the commission the authority to approve the fees for attorneys representing workers in workers' compensation proceedings.
The court said that the issue was whether a reasonable attorney's fees should include a portion of the worker's award that the attorney's services did not secure. Here, the attorney agreed that the funds at issue were not primarily or substantially secured by his services. The court found that the rule did not infringe upon judicial authority, violate the attorney's or workers' free speech rights, or violate the attorney's constitutional right to liberty.
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May 28, 2013
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