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New Opinion Further Explaining Entitlement to Attorney Fees Under ERISA

On September 10, 2013, the Second Circuit issued its opinion in Scarangella v. Group Health Inc., providing further guidance on awarding attorney fees after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hardt v. Reliance Std. Life Ins. Co., 130 S. Ct. 2149 (2010).  The question before the Second Circuit was “what must a party achieve or obtain to show some degree of success on the merits,” the triggering event for an award of fees under Hardt. Acknowledging that the Supreme Court in Hardt appeared to have left room for many factual scenarios to satisfy the standard of some success on the merits, the Second Circuit held that in evaluating ERISA fee applications, the catalyst theory remains a viable means of showing that judicial action in some way spurred one party to provide another party with relief, potentially amounting to success on the merits. We expect that this area of the law will continue to develop over the next few years as more and more courts give meaning to the Supreme Court’s holding in Hardt.