Guerrero v. HHS, (Fed. Cl. Nov. 16, 2015) (Williams, J)
In this appeal, Petitioner contended that the Special Master, on remand, committed legal error and abused his discretion by reducing the number of hours, recategorizing certain attorney billing entries as paralegal tasks and some paralegal billing entries as clerical tasks, consolidating de minimis billing entries, and failing to address other fee award decisions that supported Petitioner’s fee request.
The reviewing judge deferred to the Special Master’s superior understanding of the litigation and affirmed the reductions in the following categories: (1) excessive work; (2) unnecessary work; (3) email related deductions; (4) conversions of attorney time to paralegal time; (5) duplicative work (other than medical record review and summarization); (6) retention and disbursement agreement related deductions; and (7) clerical or administrative work.
The Court reversed the reduction of fees related to the review and summarization of medical records because the Special Master unreasonably characterized three different tasks – attorney review of medical records, paralegal summarization of medical records, and attorney review of the paralegal’s summary – as duplicative work.