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Jagielski v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.

September 28, 2007

CYNTHIA JAGIELSKI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur J. Schwab United States District Judge

ELECTRONICALLY FILED

Memorandum and Order on Attorneys Fees

I. Introduction

On August 24, 2007, this Court entered judgment in favor of plaintiff and against defendant, and issued a Memorandum Opinion which stated in part:

V. Remedy

Plaintiff requests the Court to award retroactive benefits, with interests and attorneys fees, and to make a declaratory judgment that plaintiff's disability is permanent and award a measure of damages for future disability benefits in a lump sum. The Court certainly agrees that retroactive benefits with interest is an appropriate remedy in this case, as is an award of attorneys fees, but will not enter a lump sum award for "front disability benefits."

As far as attorneys fees, under ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(1), the Court may, in its discretion, award attorney's fees to a prevailing party. There is no presumption that a successful plaintiff should automatically receive attorney's fees. Ellison v. Shenango, Inc. Pension Bd., 956 F.2d 1268, 1273 (3d Cir. 1992); McPherson v. Employees' Pension Plan of American Re-Insurance Company, Inc., 33 F.3d 253, 254 (3d Cir. 1994).

In determining whether to award attorney's fees under section 502(g)(1), a district court must consider the following five factors: (1) the non-prevailing party's bad faith or culpability; (2) the ability of the non-prevailing party to satisfy an attorney's fee award; (3) the deterrent effect of an attorney's fee award on the non-prevailing party; (4) the benefit conferred on the members of the pension plan as a whole; and (5) the relative merits of the parties' positions. Ursic v. Bethlehem Mines, 719 F.2d 670, 673 (3d Cir. 1983). Factors 1-3 and 5 all weigh heavily in favor of an award of attorneys fees in this case, and factor 4 is a non-factor. The Court therefore determines that plaintiff is entitled to attorneys fees for all of their work on this case.

Additionally, the Court will direct . . . plaintiff to submit a petition for attorneys fees and supporting affidavit in accordance with the standard practices in this Court, and defendant will be given an opportunity to respond and to be heard at a hearing on attorneys fees.

Memorandum Opinion, August 24, 2007 (doc. no. 56), at 27-28.

On September 5, 2007, plaintiff submitted a motion for attorneys fees (doc. no. 58) with accompanying brief and affidavits, and defendant filed its response in opposition to attorneys fees (doc. no. 60), without affidavit. Defendant argues that attorneys fees are not warranted in this case, and that if the Court awards attorneys fees, the hours expended by counsel were excessive. On September 14, 2007, the Court heard argument on the petition for attorneys fees. After carefully considering the foregoing, and in light of this Court's ruling on the motion for summary judgment and its intimate familiarity with the record in this case,*fn1 the Court will grant plaintiff's motion for attorneys fees and expenses, although some of the fee items will be reduced or eliminated.

II. Propriety of An Award of Attorneys Fees

MetLife agrees that the test established by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Ursic v. Bethlehem Mines, 719 F.2d 670, 673 (3d Cir. 1983) governs the application for attorneys fees, but argues that only one of the four factors - that defendant has the ability to pay the fees - weighs in plaintiff's favor, and that the remaining four all militate in MetLife's favor. MetLife's ...


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