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Lawyer’s letters enough for bigger fee

Good lawyers know sometimes it only takes the right letter to the right person to win a client’s case. The Workers’ Compensation Commission recognized as much last week when it boosted the attorney’s fee for a claimant’s lawyer.

Richmond lawyer Robert L. Flax recovered a total benefit of $33,125 for the claimant, with $11,433 paid to the Division of Child Support Enforcement and $21,692 paid to the claimant. Flax asked that the fee be set on the total recovery. Claimant Gerald Hibbs had agreed to a fee of $3,000. The deputy commissioner awarded Flax $700, or 2 percent of the total recovery.

The full commission bumped the fee up to $1,200. Flax admitted he spent only a few hours on the matter, but he pursued the case for two months to recover Hibbs’ benefits.

“There was no travel, hearing, discovery, compensability issues, unusual circumstances or the expenditure of an abnormal amount of time in this matter. Counsel reviewed the case, wrote several letters” to the commission and opposing counsel, and “achieved payment for his client,” the commission said in its Feb. 9 opinion in Hibbs v. A Cut Above Ceramic Tile Inc.

In the parties’ settlement, counsel received an additional fee and costs of $4,852, and the commission agreed to the fee increase “based on the substantial benefit received by the claimant.”

By Deborah Elkins

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