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Andrews v. Prudential Insurance Company of America

March 29, 2010

ROY ANDREWS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PRUDENTIAL INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, AND DOMTAR INDUSTRIES, INC., LONG TERM DISABILITY PLAN FOR SALARIED EMPLOYEES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Avern Cohn United States District Judge

HONORABLE AVERN COHN

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES AND PRE-JUDGMENT INTEREST

(Doc. No. 37)*fn1

I. Introduction

This is a benefits case under the Employment Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq (ERISA). Plaintiff Roy Andrews sued defendants Prudential Insurance Company of American (Prudential) and Domtar Industries Inc., Long Term Disability Plan for Salaried Employees. He claimed that Prudential wrongfully denied his claim for long term disability benefits under a group insurance policy (plan) held by his former employer, Domtar Industries, Inc. Prudential initially found Andrews disabled under the plan but two months later determined he was not disabled and terminated his benefits. Andrews said this decision was arbitrary and capricious. The Court agreed.

Accordingly, on December 2, 2009, the Court entered a Memorandum and Order Denying Prudential's Motion to Affirm the Administrator's Decision. The Court specifically found that Andrews was entitled to benefits for the first 24 months of his claim and that the question of whether he is entitled to benefits beyond 24 months was not before Prudential or the Court. Although the parties have not yet agreed on the exact amount of the outstanding benefits for the 24 months, they seem to agree that it is approximately $60,000.00.

Before the Court is plaintiff's Motion for Attorney Fees and Prejudgment Interest. Plaintiff requests $28,005.00 in attorney fees (including $217.50 in paralegal fees), $1,062.48 in costs, and prejudgment interest. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

II. Analysis

A. Timeliness

Prudential contends that Andrews' request for attorney fees is untimely because it was not made within fourteen (14) days after the Court's December 2, 2009 decision, which it says constitutes an entry of judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 54. The Court disagrees. Although the December 2, 2009 decision disposed of Andrews' claim for benefits, it did not award Andrews a specific amount of benefits for the first 24 months because that figure had not been determined. It still has not been determined by the parties. As such, no judgment has been entered. Thus, Andrews' motion is timely.

B. Attorney and Paralegal Fees

Section 502 of ERISA, codified at 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g), provides, in pertinent part, that: "(1)In 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).

In this Circuit, there is no presumption that attorney fees will be awarded; the decision is within the court's discretion. Maurer v. Joy Technologies, Inc., 212 F.3d 907, 919 (6th Cir. 2000). In Secretary of Dep't of Labor v. King, 775 F.2d 666, 669 (6th Cir. 1985), the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit set forth the following factors as relevant to the determination of whether to award attorney fees: (1) the degree of the opposing party's culpability or bad faith; (2) the opposing party's ability to satisfy an award of attorney's fees; (3) the deterrent effect of an award on other persons under similar circumstances; (4) whether the party requesting fees sought to confer a common benefit on all participants and beneficiaries of an ERISA plan or resolve significant legal questions regarding ERISA; and (5) the relative merits of the parties' positions. King, 775 F.2d at 669.

Applying the first factor, the degree of bad faith, the Court finds that it favors Andrews. As fully explained in the Memorandum and Order of December 2, 2009, after fully reviewing the administrative record under the deferential arbitrary and capricious standard, the Court found that Prudential wrongfully denied Andrews disability benefits. In particular, the Court noted that Dr. Bowman, who reviewed Andrews' claim for Prudential and whose report Prudential relied upon for its decision, did not appear to have several critical documents from Andrews' treating physicians which were directly relevant to his ability to work. Thus, Dr. Bowman's report did not carry must weight. Moreover, Prudential did not mention, much less discuss, the fact that Andrews had ...


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