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In re Compensation of Hooks

Court of Appeals of Oregon

March 20, 2019

In the Matter of the Compensation of Julie Hooks, Claimant.
v.
Julie HOOKS, Respondent Cross-Petitioner. CASCADE IN HOME CARE, LLC, Petitioner Cross-Respondent,

          Argued and submitted February 15, 2018

          Workers' Compensation Board 1502460

          Benjamin C. Debney argued the cause and filed the briefs for Petitioner-Cross-Respondent.

          Julene M. Quinn argued the cause and filed the briefs for Respondent-Cross-Petitioner.

          Before Hadlock, Presiding Judge, and DeHoog, Judge, and Aoyagi, Judge.

         Affirmed on petition; reversed and remanded on cross-petition for reconsideration of attorney fees.

         Case Summary: Employer denied claimant's workers' compensation claim, and claimant requested a hearing. An administrative law judge (ALJ) set aside the denial. The Workers' Compensation Board subsequently adopted and affirmed the ALJ's order, and the board awarded an assessed fee of $6, 000 to claimant's attorney, payable by employer. Employer petitions for review, challenging the board's order as to compensability. Claimant cross-petitions, challenging the amount of the assessed attorney fee.

         Held:

         On the petition, employer's assignment of error is rejected without written discussion. On the cross-petition, the board failed to adequately explain how it set the amount of the assessed fee, such that the order lacks substantial reason.

         Affrmed on petition; reversed and remanded on cross-petition for reconsideration of attorney fees.

         [296 Or. App.App.696] AOYAGI, J.

         Claimant filed a workers' compensation claim. After employer denied the claim, an administrative law judge (ALJ) determined that the claim was compensable and set aside the denial. The Workers' Compensation Board adopted and affirmed the ALJ's order. The board then awarded $6, 000 in attorney fees to claimant. Employer seeks judicial review of the board's determination of compensability, raising a single assignment of error, which we reject without written discussion. Claimant cross-petitions, challenging the amount of attorney fees. We write only to address the cross-petition and, for the following reasons, reverse and remand the board's order as to attorney fees.

         The underlying facts provide context for the attorney fee award, so we describe them briefly. Claimant worked as an in-home caregiver. One evening, while she was caring for a male client who suffered from dementia, the client repeatedly engaged in sexually inappropriate conduct toward claimant and at one point threatened to burn down claimant's boyfriend's house. Soon after that experience, claimant began having panic attacks. She filed a workers' compensation claim for a mental disorder, which employer denied. Claimant requested a hearing. Employer defended its denial to the ALJ, arguing that claimant's mental disorder was not compensable. After considering competing medical evidence, the ALJ determined that the claim was compensable and set aside the denial. The ALJ supplemented her order on reconsideration. Employer appealed to the board. The board ultimately adopted and affirmed the ALJ's order. Thus, claimant prevailed.

         When an employer initiates board review of a compensability decision, and the board "finds that all or part of the compensation awarded to [the] claimant should not be disallowed or reduced," the employer "shall be required to pay to the attorney of the claimant a reasonable attorney fee in an amount set by the * * * board." ORS 656.382(2) (emphases added). The board must consider eight factors in setting the fee amount: (a) the time devoted to the case for legal services; (b) the complexity of the issues involved; (c) the value of the interest involved; (d) the skill of the attorneys; [296 Or. App.697] (e) the nature of the proceedings; (f) the benefit secured for the represented party; (g) the risk in a particular ...


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