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PA Justices Mull 30-Day Deadline for Seeking Attorney Fees

February 22, 2021 | Posted in : Expenses / Costs, Fee Entitlement / Recoverability, Fee Issues on Appeal, Fee Jurisprudence, Fee Request

A recent Law 360 story by Matthew Santoni, “Pa. Justices To Mull 30-Day Deadline for Seeking Atty Fees,” reports that the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania will consider whether waiting to see if a case is appealed pauses a 30-day deadline for seeking attorney fees after the case closes, the court said.  The justices said they would hear physician Michael F. Szwerc's appeal of a Superior Court's ruling that he waited too long after a June 2018 judgment in his favor and a September 2018 amended judgment of the trial court to seek attorney's fees under Pennsylvania's Wage Payment and Collection Law.

The court said it would consider "whether the Superior Court erred in affirming the trial court's order denying petitioner's motion for attorneys' fees and costs Incurred in appeal and collection of judgment on the basis that such motion was untimely and/or that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to consider same."

Szwerc sued his former employer, Lehigh Valley Health Network, in 2014, alleging violations of the WPCL.  He won the case for his lost wages, in the amount of $70,590, but also sought to make Lehigh Valley pay nearly $400,000 in attorneys' fees and costs incurred for the lawsuit.

A Superior Court ruling in June 2018 upheld his victory but sent the case back to the trial court to properly name some of the parties responsible for paying Szwerc's lost wages, which the court did that September.  But Szwerc waited until the following April to file a motion for an additional $156,357 in fees and costs related to the appeal and his efforts to collect the money from Lehigh Valley.

He argued that there were no explicit time limits under the wage law, but the Superior Court's July 2020 ruling said trial courts lose their jurisdiction 30 days after a final order, so the court no longer had the power to order additional fees in his case.  Szwerc argued that he had waited to file for fees because he didn't know whether Lehigh Valley would appeal the case, seek reargument or simply fail to pay, which would have continued to drive up his legal bills.