Georgia Comp Board Won’t Resolve Fee Dispute Between Attorneys Dissolving Their Firm

In a dispute involving the dissolution of a law partnership and the rights of two attorneys in attorneys’ fees resulting from the settlement of workers’ compensation cases, Georgia’s Board of Workers’ Compensation did not have exclusive jurisdiction over the claims since no rights of the claimants would be affected by the resolution of the attorneys’ dispute [Smith v. Williams, 2015 Ga. App. LEXIS 462 (July 14, 2015)]. The court held that while the Board had jurisdiction to resolve “ancillary issues” related to an employee’s compensation rights under the Act, where the rights of an employee in a pending claim were not at stake, the Board could disavow jurisdiction.

The appellate court acknowledged that O.C.G.A. § 34–9–108(a) required Board approval of attorney fees in excess of $100 and limited attorney fees to 25 percent of a claimant’s award. Here, however, no employee rights were at state. The court added that the Georgia attorney fee statute dealt with the Board’s protection of the rights of employee-claimants in relation to their attorneys rather than the rights of one attorney in relation to another attorney.

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