United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
H.N. BY AND THROUGH HER PARENTS AND GUARDIANS, JOHN DOE AND JANE DOE; AND JOHN DOE AND JANE DOE, HUSBAND AND WIFE, ON THEIR OWN BEHALF, Plaintiffs,
REGENCE BLUESHIELD, A WASHINGTON CORPORATION; AND MBA GROUP INSURANCE TRUST HEALTH AND WELFARE PLAN, Defendants.
Honorable Richard A. Jones United States District Judge.
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs' motion for
attorneys' fees (Dkt. # 53), motion establishing
prejudgment interest and setting rate of interest (Dkt. #
55), and motion for nontaxable litigation expenses (Dkt. #
60). Defendants Regence Blueshield and MBA Group Insurance
Trust Health And Welfare Plan (collectively
“Defendants” or “Regence”) oppose the
motions. Dkt. ## 62, 66, 76.
facts of this case are detailed in the Court's prior
orders. See Dkt. # 51. The Court will not reiterate
those facts here. At issue is whether the Court should award
Plaintiffs their attorneys fees and costs, and if so, how
much the Court should award.
Plaintiffs were successful on the merits.
ERISA action, the Court has discretion to award reasonable
attorneys' fees and costs to either party if the party
seeking fees has achieved “some degree of success on
the merits.” Hardt v. Reliance Standard Life Ins.
Co., 560 U.S. 242, 255 (2010) (quoting Ruckelshaus
v. Sierra Club, 463 U.S. 680, 694 (1983)); see
also 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(1). However, a claimant
does not satisfy this requirement by achieving “trivial
success on the merits” or a “purely procedural
victor[y].” Hardt, 560 U.S. at 255. A claimant
satisfies the Hardt standard “if the court can
fairly call the outcome of the litigation some success on the
merits without conducting a lengthy inquiry into the question
whether a particular party's success was
‘substantial' or occurred on a ‘central
issue.'” Hardt, 560 U.S. at 255 (internal
quotation marks omitted) (brackets omitted).
Court finds that Plaintiffs were successful on the merits of
their claims based on the Court's prior ruling, Dkt. #
51, and Defendants do not appear to dispute that Plaintiffs
have met their burden under Hardt. Therefore, the
Court may award attorney's fees and costs to Plaintiffs
pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g).
found that a claimant satisfies the Hardt standard,
the Court must then consider the five factors outlined by the
Ninth Circuit in Hummell v. S. E. Rykoff & Co.,
634 F.2d 446 (9th Cir. 1980), to determine whether to award
reasonable attorneys' fees and costs. Simonia v.
Glendale Nissan/Infiniti Disability Plan, 608 F.3d 1118,
1119 (9th Cir. 2010). Those factors are:
(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'
Hummell, 634 F.2d at 453. “The
Hummell factors reflect a balancing and [the Court]
need not find that each factor weighs in support of
fees.” McElwaine v. U.S. W., Inc., 176 F.3d
1167, 1173 (9th Cir. 1999).
the Court applies these factors, it “must keep at the
forefront ERISA's remedial purposes that should be
liberally construed in favor of protecting participants in
employee benefit plans.” Id. at 1172. The
court also applies “a ‘special circumstances'
rule in which a successful ERISA participant should
ordinarily recover an attorney's fee unless special
circumstances would render such an award unjust.”
Id. (quotations omitted).
the Court does not find that Regence acted in bad faith by
denying coverage for care for the three treatment periods at
issue. Though Regence was wrong to deny coverage for
H.N.'s treatment, Plaintiffs did not establish that
Regence had a pattern or practice of summarily denying
similar claims. Moreover, Regence presented evidence that it
had reviewed H.N.'s claim several times and denied it
based on the MCG guidelines. The Court found this review
process to be insufficient ...