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Liberty Mutual Insurance v. Rodriguez

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

April 2, 2019

LIBERTY MUTUAL INSURANCE o/b/o SABERT CORPORATION, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
JOSE R. RODRIGUEZ, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued January 15, 2019

          On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Docket No. L-2564-17.

          David H. Lande argued the cause for appellant (Law Offices of Gill & Chamas, attorneys; David H. Lande, on the brief).

          Betsy G. Ramos argued the cause for respondent (Capehart & Scatchard, PA, attorneys; Betsy G. Ramos, of counsel and on the brief).

          James M. Clancy argued the cause for amicus curiae New Jersey Advisory Council on Safety and Health (Borbi, Clancy & Patrizi, attorneys; James M. Clancy, on the brief).

          Before Judges Fisher, Suter and Firko.

          FIRKO, J.S.C.

         Defendant Jose R. Rodriguez (Rodriguez) appeals from an order entered by the trial court granting plaintiff Liberty Mutual Insurance's (Liberty) application for reimbursement for its workers' compensation benefits paid to Rodriguez from his third-party recovery based on the fee ratio calculated for the overall settlement and not the sliding scale set forth in Rule 1:21-7. We affirm.

         The relevant facts are not disputed and the matter was ripe for disposition. See, e.g., Brill v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 142 N.J. 520, 540 (1995). Rodriguez was injured during the course of his employment at Sabert Corporation in 2012. Liberty was the workers' compensation carrier for Sabert. Rodriguez retained the Gill & Chamas law firm (law firm) to represent him in his workers' compensation matter and the third-party action against the tortfeasor. Rodriguez entered into an Agreement to Provide Legal Services in 2002 that provided the law firm would receive a fee, under the 2012 version of Rule 1:21-7(c), as follows:

(1) 33[.33]% of the first $500, 000 recovered;
(2) 30% on the next $500, 000 recovered;
(3) 25% on the next $500, 000 recovered;
(4) 20% on the next $500, 000 recovered; and
(5) on all amounts recovered in excess of the above by application for a reasonable fee in accordance with the ...

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