United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR
ATTORNEY'S FEES WITHOUT PREJUDICE RE: DKT. NO.
J. DAVILA United States District Judge
before the court is Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney's
Fees and Costs. Dkt. No. 62. Based on the unresolved posture
of the case and for the reasons explained briefly below, the
court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion without prejudice.
Gorbacheva (“Plaintiff”) initially filed this
action under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of
1974 (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. § 1132, against
Abbott Laboratories Extended Disability Plan (“the
Plan”) for failure to pay long-term disability
(“LTD”) benefits. See Compl., Dkt. No.
1. In May 2015, the Parties filed cross motions for summary
judgment on all claims. See Dkt. Nos. 46, 49. On
June 30, 2015, the court granted the Plan's motion for
summary judgment as to the second, third, and fourth causes
of action. Dkt. No. 61 at 21. The court granted
Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment “only as to
her claim that the Plan Administrator abused its discretion
in denying her request for LTD benefits, ” and remanded
the case to the Plan Administrator “to make an initial
determination as to whether Plaintiff was entitled to LTD
benefits in light of all of the evidence that it should have
considered in the first instance.” Id. at 19,
remand, the Plan Administrator upheld the termination of
Plaintiff's extended disability benefits, issuing the
decision by letter dated December 29, 2016. See Dkt.
No.71 at 1. Based on the Plan's decision, Plaintiff now
reasserts her ERISA claim and challenges the Plan's
denial of her LTD benefits. Accordingly, on January 23, 2017,
the court granted Plaintiff's Motion to Remove
Administrative Closure (Dkt. No. 68) and reopened the case
for further proceedings. Dkt. No. 70.
light of the case being reopened, as well as the Parties'
suggestion that there remain numerous unresolved issues
requiring future litigation, the court directed the Parties
to address whether Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney Fees
and Costs should be considered at this time, or whether that
Motion would be more appropriately brought and decided upon
final resolution of the case. See Dkt. No 70.
argues that the court should consider the Motion and award
fees without any further delay because, “regardless of
what might happen in the future, ” the court's
order remanding the case to the Plan Administrator “was
a significant success on the merits and warrants an award of
attorney's fees and costs.” Joint Statement at 9,
Dkt. No. 71. It is Plaintiff's position that “the
proceedings that will take place after remand will consider a
new record and new legal and factual issues, and thus there
is no reason to delay resolution of the attorney's fee
issues as they pertain to the original dispute.”
Id. In contrast, Defendants argue that the Motion
would be more appropriately and efficiently brought and
decided upon final resolution of the case and, until such
resolution, “the full relative merits of the
parties' positions and the degree of Plaintiff's
success on the merits of her claim are unknown.”
Id. at 9-10.
court agrees with Defendants. First, the Parties identify a
variety of contentious and ongoing issues to be resolved by
way of continuing litigation. It would therefore be
inefficient for the court to consider the instant Motion for
Attorney's Fees when Plaintiff and/or Defendants will
likely bring additional fees motions at the conclusion of the
case. Thus, it is more productive and more reasonable for the
court to address any such motions upon final resolution of
this matter. See Forest Grove Sch. Dist. v. Student,
2013 WL 4012744, at *2 (D. Or. 2013) (granting stay of
attorney's fees motion, explaining that “[a] trial
court may exercise its discretion by finding it is
‘efficient for its own docket and the fairest course
for the parties to enter a stay of an action before it,
pending resolution of independent proceedings which bear upon
the case.'”) (quoting Leyva v. Certified
Grocers of Cal., Ltd., 593 F.2d 857, 863-64 (9th Cir.
1979)); Mediterranean Enter., Inc. v. Ssangyong
Corp., 708 F.2d 1458, 1465 (9th Cir. 1983) (“The
trial court “possesses the inherent power to control
its own docket and calendar.”)
while it is possible, as Plaintiff argues, for a court to
award attorney's fees even where the plaintiff does not
prevail on every issue in the litigation, or even without
specific knowledge of the ultimate monetary benefits
conferred to a plaintiff, doing so here is unnecessary and
premature. The current, unresolved posture of the case leaves
the court with little guidance as to many of the factors
relevant to attorney's fees determinations. See
Hummell v. S.E. Rykoff& Co., 634 F.2d 446, 453 (9th
Cir. 1980) (outlining the relevant factors as: (1) the degree
of the opposing parties' culpability or bad faith; (2)
the ability of the opposing parties to satisfy an award of
fees; (3) whether an award of fees against the opposing
parties would deter others from acting under similar
circumstances; (4) whether the parties requesting fees sought
to benefit all participants and beneficiaries of an ERISA
plan or to resolve a significant legal question regarding
ERISA; and (5) the relative merits of the parties'
positions). Thus, final resolution of the case will provide a
more complete record for the court to evaluate and make any
potential fee award.
on the foregoing, Plaintiffs Motion for Attorney's Fees
and Costs (Dkt. No. 62) is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
Plaintiff may again seek attorney's fees ...