U.S. Supreme Court Improves ERISA Plaintiffs’ Rights To Attorneys Fees

This Spring, the Nation’s highest court sided with individuals who are improperly denied benefits under ERISA regulated Plans. Writing for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas held that the common requirement that a party be deemed a “prevailing party”, applicable to fee petitions in other statutes including parts of the Employ Retirement Income Security (ERISA), does not apply to ERISA plaintiffs who attain “some degree of success on the merits.” The Court found attorneys fees to be appropriate for the plaintiff, Hardt, where the trial court had remanded the case, with instructions to the defendant claim administrator, resulting in a subsequent award by the administrator of plan benefits. The Court held that the remand with instructions to consider all evidence was instrumental in changing the administrator’s decision, even though the court did not itself award benefits. Hardt v. Reliance Standard Life Ins. Co., 130 S.Ct. 2149 (May 24, 2010).

Category: ERISA Law