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Annie O. Lewis and Herbert E. v. Aetna Life Insurance Company

February 2, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Phil Gilbert District Judge


This matter comes before the Court on the parties' Bill(s) of Costs (Docs. 114, 118) and plaintiff Annie Lewis's Motion for Attorney Fees (Doc. 116). Both parties have objected to the other's Bill of Costs (Docs. 117, 124) and defendant Sherwin Williams Salaried Medical Plan ("Sherwin Williams") filed a response in opposition to the plaintiff's motion for attorney fees (Doc. 125).


1. Factual

The facts of this case are thoroughly presented in the Court's Memorandum & Order on summary judgment (Doc. 88). The Court will briefly restate the facts here. On December 17, 2006, Annie Lewis ("Annie") was horseback riding and sustained injuries after being thrown from her horse. At all times relevant to this litigation, her husband, Herbert Lewis ("Herbert"), was a participant in the Defendant Sherwin Williams Salaried Medical Plan ("the Plan"). Annie was a dependent/beneficiary under the Plan. Defendant Sherwin Williams Company is the Plan's administrator, and Defendant Aetna Insurance Agency, Inc. ("Aetna") is the claims administrator of the Plan. Due to the severity of her injuries, Annie ultimately had $38,165.92 in medical bills. Annie and Herbert ("the Lewises") eventually brought suit in state court against Aetna for breach of contract due to its alleged non-payment. The Lewises alleged Aetna did not pay the claims but classified them as "pending" until it could fully investigate the claims to determine whether there was a pre-existing condition or other medical insurance. While the claims were pending, one of the medical providers sued the Lewises for payment. Later, between March 2007 and March 2009, Aetna completed its investigation and made a number of payments.

2. Procedural

On August 20, 2009, this matter was removed to federal court on grounds that the claims of the Lewises were preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq. After retaining new counsel, the Lewises filed an Amended Complaint (Doc. 27), which remains the operative complaint in this litigation. This complaint not only added the Plan and Sherwin Williams as defendants but pled six separate claims for relief. These claims were as follows: engagement in arbitrary and capricious actions by Aetna (Count I); violation of ERISA § 502(a)(1)(B), codified at 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B), by the Plan (Count II), and; violation of ERISA § 502(c)(1), codified at 29 U.S.C. § 1132(c)(1), by Aetna and Sherwin Williams (Counts III-VI).

Eventually, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, and, in its aforementioned order of October 29, 2010, the Court denied the Lewises' motion for summary judgment and granted Defendants' motion on Counts I, III, IV, V, and VI (this also resulted in the dismissal with prejudice of Herbert, Aetna, and Sherwin Williams). Therefore, the only claim which went to trial was Count II, brought by Annie against the Plan. At trial on February 23, 2011, Annie sought recovery of $5, 927.00. She prevailed on Count II and was awarded $538.00 against Sherwin Williams Salaried Medical Plan.


1. Bill of Costs

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(1) provides that "costs other than attorneys' fees shall be allowed as of course to the prevailing party unless the court otherwise directs." After a motion for costs, the clerk may tax these costs on one day's notice. Id. The losing party must object to the clerk's assessment within five days for the Court to review that action. Id. ERISA allows the Court discretion to award costs to either party. 29 U.S.C. §1132(g)(1). "[T]he court in its discretion may allow a reasonable attorney's fee and costs of action to either party." Id.

Here, both parties have filed a bill of costs (Plaintiff at Doc. 114; Defendant at Doc. 118) and Sherwin Williams has objected to Annie's bill of costs (Doc. 117) and Annie has objected to Sherwin Williams (Doc. 124). Annie seeks costs of $2,821.38 and Sherwin Williams seeks costs of $2,641.15. Both parties achieved some success in this case and the differences between their costs are minimal. The Court therefore exercises its discretion and denies both parties' requests for costs.

2. Attorneys' Fees 29 U.S.C. ยง1132(g)(1) provides the Court may award attorneys' fees to either party upon the conclusion of a lawsuit. Previously, the party was required to be a "prevailing" party in order to be awarded fees. More recently, the Supreme Court has broadened this definition to include those who achieved "some success on the merits." Hardt v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Co., 130 S. Ct. 2149 (2010). Annie argues she is entitled to attorneys' fees because she achieved some success on the merits (prevailing on ...

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