Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Gorbacheva v. Abbott Laboratories Extended Disability Plan

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

May 25, 2018

OLGA GORBACHEVA, Plaintiff,
v.
ABBOTT LABORATORIES EXTENDED DISABILITY PLAN, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR FEES AND COSTS; DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR FEES AND COSTS DKT. NOS. 109, 110

          EDWARD J. DAVILA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This is an action for disability benefits under ERISA. The Court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants and entered judgment accordingly. Presently before the Court are competing motions for attorneys' fees and costs pursuant to 29 U.S.C. §1132(g)(1), 28 U.S.C. §1920 and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d). In a renewed motion for fees and costs, Plaintiff requests an award of $191, 415 (273.45 hours x $700/hour) in attorneys' fees and $1, 201.60 in costs incurred to obtain the June 30, 2016 order remanding Plaintiff's claim to the plan administrator and preparing the instant motion.[1] Defendants seek $264, 570.47 in attorneys' fees and $9, 758.02 in costs. The Court finds it appropriate to take the motions under submission for decision without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-1(b). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion is granted in part and Defendants' motion is denied.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff initiated this action in June of 2014, naming five defendants and asserting claims for benefits under (1) the Abbott Laboratories Extended Disability Plan (“EDP”), (2) the Abbott Laboratories Annuity Retirement Plan and (3) Retiree Health Plan. Plaintiff also sought statutory penalties. In December 2014, Defendants offered Plaintiff a voluntary remand to the plan administrator. Plaintiff was not interested in the offer because it did not include an award of back benefits and the exact parameters of the proposed remand were never discussed.

         In May 2015, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Although there was a great deal of evidence in the record to support the plan administrator's decision to deny Plaintiff long term benefits, the Court remanded Plaintiff's claim to the plan administrator to consider a Functional Capacity Evaluation (“FCE”) and a favorable Social Security award. The Court rejected the remainder of Plaintiff's arguments. Plaintiff filed her initial motion for fees and costs, which the Court denied without prejudice.

         On remand, Plaintiff submitted 869 pages of additional medical records to the plan administrator; however, none of the records were from the relevant time frame. Nevertheless, the plan administrator considered the additional records, as well as the FCE and the Social Security award. The plan administrator denied Plaintiff's claim. The instant action was reopened and in February of 2018, the Court issued an order denying Plaintiff's motion for judgment as a matter of law and granting Defendants' motion for summary judgment. The Court concluded that the plan administrator did not abuse her discretion in denying Plaintiff's claim for disability benefits.

         II. STANDARDS

         Pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(1), a court in its discretion may award reasonable attorney's fees and costs of the action to either a plaintiff or defendant in an ERISA case. Estate of Shockley v. Alyeska Pipeline Serv. Co., 130 F.3d 403, 408 (9th Cir. 1997) (“We first disabuse the district court of the suggestion that we favor one side or the other [plaintiffs or defendants] in ERISA fee cases. The statute is clear on its face-the playing field is level.”).

         The first step is to determine whether the party seeking fees achieved “some degree of success on the merits.” Barnes v. AT&T Pension Benefit Plan-Nonbargained Program, 963 F.Supp.2d 950, 960-61 (N.D. Cal. 2013) (citing Hardt v. Reliance Standard Life Ins. Co., 560 U.S. 242 (2010)). Even if a claimant achieves some degree of success on the merits, a court has discretion in deciding whether to award fees. Five factors-known as the Hummell factors- guide the decision: (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. Simonia v. Glendale Nissan/Infiniti Disability Plan, 608 F.3d 1118, 1121 (9th Cir. 2010). No. one factor is determinative. Carpenters S. Cal. Admin. Corp. v. Russell, 726 F.2d 1410, 1416 (9th Cir. 1984).

         If a court determines that a claimant is entitled to an award of fees, the court next analyzes the amount of fees that should be awarded. Barnes, 963 F.Supp.2d at 961. Under ERISA, fee awards to a prevailing party are calculated using a lodestar analysis, multiplying the number of hours reasonably expended by a reasonable hourly rate. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Plaintiff's Motion for Fees and Costs

         Plaintiff achieved some degree of success on the merits by obtaining an order of remand. Hardt, 560 U.S. at 256; see also Binaley v. AT&T Umbrella Benefit Plan No. 1, No. 11-4722 YGR, 2013 WL 5402236, at *5 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 26, 2013) (an order remanding to the plan administrator may be sufficient success on the merits for attorneys' fee purposes); Barnes v. AT&T Pension Benefit Plan-Nonbargained Program, 963 F.Supp.2d at 962-63. Although Plaintiff ultimately was not awarded the disability benefits she sought, the order of remand cannot be fairly ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.