No. 1071 Philadelphia, 1980, Appeal from the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, Civil Division, March Term, 1977, No. 5037.
David M. McCormick, Philadelphia, for appellant.
Harold F. Kaufman, Philadelphia, for appellees.
Price, Watkins and Montgomery, JJ.
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The instant appeal is from the order of April 9, 1980, entering judgment awarding appellees, Robert and Linda
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Danks, costs, interest and counsel fees in the sum of $2,251.42 under the Pennsylvania No-Fault Motor Vehicle Insurance Act ("Act").*fn1 Appellant, the Government Employees Insurance Company, raises two issues on appeal. First, appellant maintains that the trial court erred in concluding that under § 1009.107(3) of the Act, when calculating attorney's fees to be awarded, it had no discretion to determine whether the amount of time expended by appellees' counsel was reasonable in relation to the case. Appellant also argues that, having such discretion, the court below erred in refusing to consider evidence of offers of settlement made by appellant in evaluating the reasonableness of the time expended by appellees' attorney. We agree with appellant that in awarding attorney's fees under the Act, the court must determine whether the time spent by counsel was appropriate to the case, but hold that appellant's offers of settlement are not admissible on this issue.
Appellees were injured in an automobile accident on December 19, 1975. Counsel was retained and claims filed. Bills were submitted as medical expenses were incurred. Apparently, early in this process, appellees' counsel improperly submitted two bills. Thereafter, appellees submitted only proper bills, which appellant admitted should have been paid. Appellant made payments on these medical bills from time to time, final payment having been made on April 12, 1977, after suit was instituted. Depositions of appellant's employees were conducted on June 15, 1977, and arbitration held on October 26, 1977. An arbitration award was filed November 4, 1977, wherein the arbitrators found in favor of appellees in the amount of $39.57 for interest and $500 for attorney's fees. Appellees appealed from this award, and a non-jury trial was held in March of 1980.
Section 1009.107(3) of the Act provides:
If in any action by a claimant to recover no fault benefits from an obligor, the court determines that the obligor has denied the claim or any significant part thereof without reasonable foundation, the court may award the claimant's
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attorney a reasonable fee based on ...