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Fifth Circuit: Procedural Win Is Not Grounds for Attorney’s Fees

The Fifth Circuit concluded that a plan participant was not entitled to recover attorneys’ fees for obtaining a remand order requiring the district court to apply a de novo, rather than abuse of discretion, standard of review to the administrative determination of her benefit claim.  In so ruling, the Court applied the principles enunciated by the U.S. Supreme Court in Hardt v. Reliance Standard Life Ins. Co., 560 U.S. 242 (2010), which held that a plan participant must have “achieved some degree of success on the merits” in order to receive a fee award under ERISA.  The Supreme Court held that, although the participant need not qualify as a “prevailing party,” she must obtain more than “trivial success on the merits or a purely procedural victory.”  The Fifth Circuit applied the “some success on the merits” standard and observed that the remand order here included no comment on the strength of the remanded claim.  The case is Ariana M. v. Humana Health Plan of Texas, Inc., No. 18-cv-20700, 2019 WL 5866677 (5th Cir. Nov. 8, 2019).

© 2020 Proskauer Rose LLP. National Law Review, Volume IX, Number 338

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About this Author

Lindsey H Chopin, Labor and Employment Attorney, Proskauer Law Firm
Associate

Lindsey H. Chopin is an associate in the Labor & Employment Law Department and a member of the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group, focusing on complex employee benefits litigation.

With a diverse range of clients, Lindsey represents financial service providers, hospitals, large corporations and multiemployer funds in matters including breach of fiduciary duty claims, stock drop claims, church plan claims, withdrawal liability and delinquent contribution claims.

Lindsey also has experience in the...

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