United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division
RICHARD MILLS, United States District Judge
are two motions.
for Plaintiff's attorney's fees and costs.
other is for prejudgment interest.
ATTORNEY'S FEES AND COSTS
action was brought pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income
Security Act (ERISA) seeking benefits due under the terms of
an employee benefit plan. See 29 U.S.C. §
1132(A)(1)(b). Following the Mandate of the United States
Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the Court entered
Judgment in favor of Plaintiff Lee Ann Prather for the full
amount of benefits sought.
ERISA, courts have the discretion to award “a
reasonable attorney's fee and costs of action to either
party.” 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(1). A party must show
“some degree of success on the merits” before
claiming an attorney's fee award under § 1132(g)(1).
See Hardt v. Reliance Standard Life Ins. Co., 560
U.S. 242, 245 (2010). As previously noted, the Plaintiff
ultimately achieved complete success on the merits of the
lawsuit. The Seventh Circuit stated “[t]hat makes it an
easy case for us to exercise discretion favorably to her,
” in awarding reasonable attorney's fees and costs
on appeal. See Prather v. Sun Life and Health Insurance
Co., 852 F.3d 697, 2017 WL 1173697, at *1 (7th Cir. Mar.
test the Seventh Circuit has used in considering an award of
attorney's fees and costs involves an examination of the
following factors: “1) the degree of the offending
parties' culpability; 2) the degree of the ability of the
offending parties to satisfy an award of attorneys' fees;
3) whether or not an award of attorneys' fees against the
offending parties would deter other persons acting under
similar circumstances; 4) the amount of benefit conferred on
members of the pension plan as a whole; and 5) the relative
merits of the parties' positions.” Temme v.
Bemis Co., 762 F.3d 544, 547 (7th Cir. 2014). In
examining these factors when considering whether to award
attorney's fees and costs on appeal, the Seventh Circuit
noted it had no information regarding the amount of benefit
conferred on members of the pension plan. See
Prather, 852 F.3d 697, at *2. However, the other four
factors favored the Plaintiff. Because “[t]he score is
4 to 0 in favor of the plaintiff, ” the Seventh Circuit
stated that “[f]ee-shifting under ERISA is entirely
appropriate” in a case like this-when the insurance
company denied her claim “without medical evidence and
then put her through all the hoops of litigation.”
on the foregoing, four of the five factors favor the
Plaintiff and the other factor favors either the Defendant or
is simply inapplicable. Under either standard-the
Plaintiff's complete success on the merits or the
five-factor test-the Plaintiff is entitled to an award of
reasonable attorney's fees and costs.
Defendant correctly notes that this Court initially found in
its favor. It contends, therefore, that its denial of the
Plaintiff's claim cannot be held to be unjustified. Based
on its defenses and this Court's previous findings, the
Defendant alleges it is not culpable. Given that this Court
is bound by the rulings of the Seventh Circuit, this
Court's earlier ruling is no longer good law and cannot
be used by the Defendant to justify its position. The Seventh
Circuit previously stated, “Sun Life failed to make any
plausible showing that the surgery on Prather's ankle,
rather than the accident that necessitated the surgery,
caused his death.” Prather v. Sun Life and Health
Insurance Co., 843 F.3d 733, 735-36 (7th Cir. 2016).
That is now the law of the case. Accordingly, the Court finds
that the Plaintiff is entitled to an award of attorney's
fees and costs.
to the Plaintiff's Motion are the itemized time sheets of
counsel. The Plaintiff alleges the amount of time listed was
reasonably required to prosecute the district court
proceeding and consult regarding the appeal and remand. The
Plaintiff seeks attorney's fees in the total amount of
$37, 919.50 for the services of Attorney Gregory P. Sgro,
Legal Intern and Associate Attorney Benjamin M. Sgro and
Attorney Ellen C. Bruce of the law firm of Sgro, Hanrahan,
Durr, Rabin & Bruce, LLP, and reimbursable costs of
Defendant contends that, even assuming the Plaintiff is
entitled to an award of attorney's fees, the amounts
requested are “clearly excessive.” “The
most useful starting point for determining the amount of a
reasonable fee is the number of hours reasonably expended on
the litigation ...