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Murer v. State Compensation Insurance Fund

Court of Workers Compensation of Montana

March 2, 1998

JACK MURER, et al. Petitioner
v.
STATE COMPENSATION INSURANCE FUND Respondent/Insurer.

          Submitted: February 17, 1998

          ORDER AWARDING ATTORNEY FEES

          MIKE MCCARTER JUDGE

         Summary: In Murer v. State Compensation Ins. Fund, 942 P.2d 69 (1997), the Supreme Court held that the petitioners' attorney was entitled to attorneys' fees from benefits obtained for non-party claimants under the common fund doctrine. The issue on remand involved what is the appropriate amount of fees.

         Held: After providing notice to potential non-party claimants, holding a hearing taking input from such individuals, and hearing testimony from claimant's counsel, Court approves agreement that counsel will receive 15% of any benefits which may be paid as a result of this litigation.

         Topics:

Attorneys Fees: Lien. In Murer v. State Fund, 942 P.2d 69 (1997), the Supreme Court held that the petitioners' attorney was entitled to attorneys' fees from benefits obtained for non-party claimants under the common fund doctrine. On remand, the WCC was required to determine the appropriate amount of fees. After providing notice to potential non-party claimants, holding a hearing taking input from such individuals, and hearing testimony from claimant's counsel, Court approves agreement that counsel will receive 15% of any benefits which may be paid as a result of this litigation.

         ¶1 This matter is on remand from the Supreme Court for a determination of the amount of attorney fees due the petitioning claimants' attorney, Mr. Allan M. McGarvey. In Murer v. State Compensation Mut. Ins. Fund, 942 P.2d 69 (Mont. 1997), the Supreme Court held that under the common fund doctrine the petitioners' attorney is entitled to attorney fees with respect to benefits other claimants may receive as a result of the precedent established in this action.

         ¶2 Following the decision of the Supreme Court, the petitioning claimants, the respondent, and intervening claimants entered into an agreement providing that the attorney for the petitioning claimants is entitled to 15% of any benefits which may be paid as a result of this litigation. The parties requested Court approval of the agreement.

         ¶3 Under the Court's supervision, notice of the proposed fee was mailed to approximately 8, 000 claimants who may be entitled to Murer benefits. Approximately 2, 000 of the mailings were returned as undeliverable.

         ¶4 The notice invited Murer beneficiaries to state whether they supported or opposed the proposed attorney fee. The claimants were provided with an opportunity to reply by mail or in person at a hearing scheduled for February 17, 1998, in Helena, Montana.

         ¶5 The Court received 58 written responses. An overwhelming number of those responses supported the proposed 15% fee.

         ¶6 At the hearing held on February 17, 1998, approximately 22 persons were present in addition to the attorneys and Court staff. All were invited to comment on the proposed attorney fees. Fourteen individuals did comment. All supported the 15% attorney fee.

         ¶7 In addition to the public attending, the following ...


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