JEFFREY P. GRIMM, Appellee
UNIVERSAL MEDICAL SERVICES, INC. AND RODERICK K. REEDER, CFO, Appellants
from the Order Entered March 24, 2016 In the Court of Common
Pleas of Beaver County Civil Division at No(s): 10815-2014
BEFORE: BENDER, P.J.E., BOWES, J., and SOLANO, J.
Universal Medical Services, Inc. and Roderick K. Reeder, CFO,
appeal from the trial court's March 24, 2016 order
granting Appellee's, Jeffrey P. Grimm, request for
attorneys' fees. In this appeal raising an issue of first
impression, we must consider the interplay between the
Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law (referred to
herein as "WPCL") and Pennsylvania Rule of Civil
Procedure 1311.1, which allows a plaintiff to limit the
maximum amount of damages recoverable to $25, 000.00 in
exchange for relaxed requirements in admitting certain
documentary evidence at a de novo trial following
compulsory arbitration. After close review, we
trial court stated the factual background and procedural
history of this case as follows:
This is a two-count action brought by [Appellee], Jeffrey P.
Grimm, against [Appellants], Universal Medical Services, Inc.
(hereinafter "Universal") and Roderick K. Reeder,
CFO. In Count I, [Appellee] asserted a breach of contract
action against [Appellant] Universal … for failure to
reimburse [Appellee] for business expenses and in Count II,
[Appellee] asserted a [WPCL] claim against both [Appellants]
on the same basis. The matter proceeded through compulsory
arbitration before an arbitration panel of this [c]ourt, with
an award in favor of [Appellants].
[Appellee] appealed that arbitration award to the [c]ourt and
filed an election to limit monetary recovery to $25, 000
pursuant to Pa.R.Civ.P. 1311.1. A jury trial was held
commencing on Monday, January 18, 2016, resulting in a
verdict in favor of [Appellee] and against [Appellant] 
Universal, with regard to both counts on January 20, 2016.
The jury found in favor of [Appellant], Roderick K. Reeder,
with regard to Count II ([WPCL]). The jury awarded damages to
[Appellee] in the amount of $11, 683.92[, ] and found that
[Appellant Universal] acted in bad faith in denying the
reimbursement. Accordingly, the [c]ourt added 25%, or $2,
920.98, to the jury award, bringing the total award to $14,
[Appellee] requested attorney[s'] fees and costs, and
this [c]ourt scheduled a hearing on that matter on March 3,
2016. At the hearing, [Appellee] presented evidence regarding
his claim for attorney[s'] fees and costs, and counsel
for both parties argued certain matters to the [c]ourt,
including an issue of first impression. For the reasons
specified below, this [c]ourt granted [Appellee's] claim
for attorney[s'] fees.
As stated above, [Appellee] made claims for both breach of
contract and [a] violation of the [WPCL]. The essence of the
claims is that [Appellee] permitted use of his credit card by
an employee working for [Appellant] Universal. [Appellee] was
the chief executive officer of [Appellant] Universal and left
his employment with Universal in dispute. The evidence at
trial revealed that Universal had an employee by the name of
Bill Dunford. Universal had an account with a corporate
customer by the name of Welsh Allen. Dunford worked on this
account and was required to travel to service the account.
Dunford could not meet the financial requirements of the
travel on his own, and [Appellee] arranged for Dunford to
have access to his ([Appellee's]) credit card for use on
these business trips.
[Appellee] submitted the expenses on the credit card for
reimbursement by [Appellant] Universal, and the expenses were
paid for a period of time. [Appellee] claimed that he was not
fully reimbursed for the expenses and made claim for the
outstanding balance due.
[Appellant Universal] contended that many of the expenses
were Dunford's personal expenses and that [Appellee] had
been fully reimbursed for all business expenses claimed. The
factual dispute was submitted to the jury based upon the
evidence at trial. As stated above, the jury found in favor
of [Appellee] and against [Appellant] Universal on both
counts in the amount of $11, 683.92. Since the jury
determined that [Appellant] Universal acted in bad faith, the
[c]ourt awarded $2, 920.98 in liquidated damages (25% of the
verdict), pursuant to 43 P.S. § 260.10, bringing the
total award to $14, 604.90.
Also, as noted above, [Appellee] appealed the arbitration
award against him pursuant to Pa.R.Civ.P. 1311.1, which
included an election to limit monetary recovery to $25, 000.
At the hearing on March 3, 2016, [Appellee] presented
evidence showing $25, 946.25 for attorney[s'] fees,
including an amount for preparation for the hearing on March
3, 2016[, ] and costs, such as attorney travel expenses,
filing fees, etc., in the amount of $2, 529.51. The total
claimed for attorney[s'] fees and costs is $28, 475.76,
which brings the total amount claimed between the jury
verdict, the addition of liquidated damages and
attorney[s'] fees and costs to $43, 080.66, and which
exceeds the $25, 000 monetary limit provided for as a cap in
Pa.R.Civ.P. 1311.1. This presents the [c]ourt with the
issue of whether attorney[s'] fees can be awarded in
the amount claimed in excess of the Rule 1311.1 cap….
Trial Court Opinion (TCO), 3/24/2016, at 1-3 (internal
disposing of the issue regarding whether Appellee may receive
attorneys' fees in excess of Rule 1311.1's cap, the
trial court acknowledged that "[t]his is an issue of
first impression in Pennsylvania, and the [c]ourt could not
find any case law or statutory authority addressing this
issue under the [WPCL]." Id. at 4.
Nevertheless, after carefully considering and comparing
relevant case law, the trial court determined that it was
compelled to award attorneys' fees to a prevailing
plaintiff under the WPCL, even though it caused
Appellee's total award to surpass the $25, 000 monetary
limit set forth in Rule 1311.1. See id. at 6.
their appeal to this Court, Appellants raise the following
issue for our review:
Whether it is error for a trial court to mold a jury verdict
to add attorney[s'] fees to an award for wages under the
[WPCL] and thus increase the total verdict in excess of $25,
000 following [Appellee's] election to proceed at trial
under [Pa.R.C.P.] 1311.1?
Appellants' Brief at 9 (formatting omitted).
to the extent we must interpret Rule 1311.1, we note that
"[b]ecause questions concerning interpretation of the
Rules of Civil Procedure raise questions of law, we are not
constrained by the determination of the trial court; our
standard of review is de novo." LaRue v.
McGuire, 885 A.2d 549, 553 (Pa. Super. 2005) (citation,
emphasis, and quotation marks omitted). Similarly, to the
extent we must interpret the WPCL, we acknowledge that,
"[a]s the proper interpretation of a statute is a pure
question of law, our standard of review is de novo
and our scope of review is plenary." Meyer v.
Community College of Beaver County, 93 A.3d 806, 813
(Pa. 2014) (citation omitted).
case sub judice, Appellants argue that "[a]
plaintiff may take full advantage of the statutory damages
available under the WPCL if he so chooses[;]" however,
"once that same plaintiff elects to take advantage of a
procedural rule allowing him to forego the authentication of
documentary evidence in exchange for a limit on his total
award,  he cannot add a legislative remedy that would
result in an award in excess of his own voluntarily imposed
cap." Appellants' Brief at 18. Moreover, Appellants
assert that allowing an award in excess of the cap in the
case at bar "would give effect to an act of ...