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Todd Nash, An Individual v. Life Insurance Company of North America

June 22, 2011

TODD NASH, AN INDIVIDUAL,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY OF NORTH AMERICA, AN ILLINOIS CORPORATION, GROUP LONG TERM DISABILITY INSURANCE PLAN FOR ADMINISTAFF OF TEXAS INC. AND PARTICIPATING COMPANIES, A GROUP WELFARE BENEFITS PLAN UNDER ERISA, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hayes, Judge:

ORDER

The matter before the Court is the Motion for Attorney's Fees, filed by Plaintiff Todd Nash. (ECF No. 102).

I. Background

This is an action for disability benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA").

On December 9, 2010, the Court issued an Order following a bench trial. (ECF No. 98). The Court found that Defendant Life Insurance Company of North America abused its discretion by terminating Plaintiff's benefits under the "regular occupation" standard. Id. at 46. The Court ordered that "Plaintiff's benefits under the 'regular occupation' standard shall be reinstated from the time they were terminated to the time they were due to expire." Id. The Court "award[ed] Plaintiff past life insurance premiums paid from the date of termination to the time that the 'regular occupation' benefits were due to expire." Id. The Court further ordered that "Plaintiff's claim for benefits under the 'any occupation' standard is remanded to Defendant for proceedings consistent with this Order." Id.

On February 15, 2011, Plaintiff filed the Motion for Attorney's Fees, ECF No. 102, and submitted a Bill of Costs, ECF No. 103. Plaintiff requested an award of attorney's fees in the amount of $404,943.75, "inclusive of total fees less an 8% total write off ($33,006.25), and the fees connected with preparing this motion ($20,727.50)." (ECF No. 102-1 at 10). Plaintiff submitted an affidavit from Plaintiff's counsel, billing records, and numerous exhibits. (ECF No. 102-2 through 102-4).

On March 8, 2011, Defendants filed an opposition to the Motion for Attorney's Fees. (ECF No. 106). Defendants contend:

Plaintiff's fee request [should] be denied in its entirety. A denial of Plaintiff's request under the circumstances will prevent encouraging attorneys to overwork a simple file.

If the court were inclined to award fees, however, Plaintiff's attorneys' fee request should be significantly reduced in terms of the hours expended, which are unmistakably excessive. LINA requests a reduction in fees of no less than $118,470.12, plus the amounts the Court believes were excessively spent on the Memorandum of Facts and Law and the Joint Proposed Pretrial Conference Order.

Id. at 14.

On March 10, 2011, the Clerk of the Court taxed costs in favor of Plaintiff in the amount of $1,243.57. (ECF No. 107). No motion for review of the Clerk's taxation of costs has been filed.

On March 14, 2011, Plaintiff filed a reply in support of the Motion for Attorney's Fees. (ECF No. 108). Plaintiff contends:

Defendants conclude that the Nash case involved such a 'simple file.' Plaintiff submits that the Court's Order itself reveals this not to be the case. Having provoked the fight it did by unreasonably terminating Nash's own-occupation benefits, essentially ignoring the points raised in his appeals, and leaving him with no income other than Social Security benefits as support for his wife and three young children for 4 years, then tenaciously litigating the case throughout litigation, LINA now argues that [Plaintiff's counsel] Miller Monson's responsive time and fees are 'clearly excessive.' Plaintiff contends there is insufficient basis for excluding from the lodestar calculation the hours to which Defendants object other than a very minor amount.... Those hours were reasonably devoted to this case in light of the issues raised, their ... complexity, Miller Monson's experience in assessing the issues of these cases, the level of resistance from LINA (including throughout discovery), the burden Plaintiff bore at trial, and the risk that inadequate preparation at any stage could have led to no recovery (and, correspondingly, no attorneys' fees).

Id. at 5. In the reply, Plaintiff agrees to a reduction of $2,616.00 from the amount requested in the motion, and requests an additional $7,520.00 for preparing the reply. ...


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