Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Schuman v. Aetna Life Ins. Co.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

October 16, 2017

JEFF SCHUMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
AETNA LIFE INS. CO., et al., Defendants.

          RULING ON SUPPLEMENTAL MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES

          Stefan R. Underhill United States District Judge

         Jeff Schuman previously moved for attorneys' fees and costs under section 502(g)(1) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(1), arguing that he was entitled to fees and costs because he obtained a remand order in his suit against Aetna Life Insurance Co. (as claims administrator), Ahold USA's Master Welfare Benefit Plan, and the Administrative Committee of Ahold USA (as plan administrator). On June 20, 2017, I issued an order granting attorneys' fees but sharply reducing the award to less than one-quarter of Schuman's requested amount. See Schuman v. Aetna Life Ins. Co., 2017 WL 2662191 (D. Conn. June 20, 2017). Schuman now seeks an additional $9, 173.75 in “fees for fees” to compensate him “for time spent . . . reviewing defendants' opposition [to the motion for attorneys' fees], reviewing Court orders, research[ing] and drafting the Reply brief, and drafting [his] motion for supplemental fees.” See Suppl. Mot. Attorneys' Fees, Doc. No. 91, at 1.

         The $38, 627.50 I previously awarded “adequately-even generously”-“compensate[d] Schuman for his limited success on the merits.” See Schuman, 2017 WL 2662191, at *10. Consistent with my “substantial discretion in fixing the amount of an [ERISA] fee award, ” see Comm'r, INS v. Jean, 496 U.S. 154, 163 (1990), I decline to award Schuman additional fees for the time spent preparing and litigating his inflated attorneys' fees application.

         I. Standard of Review

         Section 1132(g)(1) of ERISA provides that “[i]n any action under this subchapter . . . by a participant, beneficiary, or fiduciary, the court in its discretion may allow a reasonable attorney's fee and costs of action to either party.” 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(1). The Supreme Court has held that, under the language of the statute, “a fee claimant need not be a ‘prevailing party' to be eligible for an attorney's fees award.” Hardt v. Reliance Standard Life Ins. Co., 560 U.S. 242, 252 (2010). Instead, a claimant need only “show ‘some degree of success on the merits' before a court may award attorney's fees under [section] 1132(g)(1).” Id. at 255 (quoting Ruckelshaus v. Sierra Club, 463 U.S. 680, 694 (1983)). “[S]ome degree of success on the merits” demands more than “‘trivial success on the merits' or a ‘purely procedural victor[y].'” Id. (quoting Ruckelshaus, 463 U.S. at 688 n.9). The court must be able to “fairly call the outcome of the litigation some success on the merits without conducting a lengthy inquir[y] into the question whether a particular party's success was ‘substantial' or occurred on a ‘central issue.'” Id. (quoting Ruckelshaus, 463 U.S. at 688 n.9) (other internal quotation marks omitted).

         “[W]hether a plaintiff has obtained some degree of success on the merits is the sole factor that a court must consider in exercising its discretion, ” but the court may also look to the factors set forth in Chambless v. Masters, Mates & Pilots Pension Plan, 815 F.2d 869 (2d Cir. 1987). See Donachie v. Liberty Life Assurance Co. of Bos., 745 F.3d 41, 46 (2d Cir. 2014). Under Chambless, in determining whether to award attorneys' fees, the court may consider:

(1) the degree of opposing parties' culpability or bad faith;
(2) [the] ability of opposing parties to satisfy an award of attorneys' fees;
(3) whether an award of attorneys' fees against the opposing parties would deter other persons acting under similar circumstances;
(4) whether the parties requesting attorneys' fees sought to benefit all participants and beneficiaries of an ERISA plan or to resolve a significant legal question regarding ERISA itself; and
(5) the relative merits of the parties' positions.

Donachie, 745 F.3d 41, 46 (2d Cir. 2014) (quoting Hardt, 560 U.S. at 249 n.1; citing Chambless, 815 F.2d at 871 (same factors, but with order of fourth and fifth factors reversed)). Because “Congress intended the fee provisions of ERISA to encourage beneficiaries to enforce their statutory rights, ” those provisions “must be liberally construed to protect the statutory purpose.” Slupinski v. First Unum Life Ins. Co., 554 F.3d 38, 47 (2d Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). In particular, “granting a prevailing plaintiff's request for fees is appropriate absent ‘some particular justification for not doing so.'” Donachie, 745 F.3d at 47 (quoting Birmingham v. SoGen-Swiss Int'l Corp. Ret. Plan, 718 F.2d 515, 523 (2d Cir. 1983)).

         II. Background

         The background of this case is set forth at length in Schuman v. Aetna Life Insurance Co., 2017 WL 1053853, at *2-*9 (D. Conn. Mar. 20, 2017). After I remanded Schuman's long-term disability claim to the claims administrator, Schuman moved for attorneys' fees and costs in the amount of approximately $167, 000, arguing that had obtained “some degree of success on the merits” as required to recover attorneys' fees under ERISA. See Schuman, 2017 WL 2662191, at *3. The defendants opposed Schuman's motion, contending that Schuman “did not achieve any ‘degree ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.