On June 24, 2010, the Ninth Circuit Court decided an ERISA case entitled
Simonia v. Glendale Nissan/Infinity. Where a plaintiff's claim under ERISA
has achieved "some degree of success on the merits," the plaintiff may seek
attoreny's fees under section 1132(g) under ERISA.
In this case, Plaintiff's claim for continuing disability benefits was dismissed on
summary judgment, and Plaintiff's "degree of success" amounted to Defendant
Hartford agreeing to dismiss its counterclaim for overpayment of benefits due
to retroactive SSDI payments received by Plaintiff, after Plaintiff informed
Hartford that the Social Security Administration subsequently retroactively
reduced his SSDI award.
The Ninth Circuit, relying on the recent Supreme Court case Hardt v.
Reliance Standard Life Insurance Co., 560 U.S. ___ (2010), concluded
that in exercising its discretion to award attorney's fees, a trial court must apply
the factors enumerated in Hummell v. S.E. Rykoff & Co., 634 F.2d 446
(9th Cir. 1980), to guide the trial court's decision as to whether to award
attorney's fees a determination that the plaintiff has acheived "some degree of
success" under ERISA..