United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division
STEVEN D. PRELUTSKY, Plaintiff,
GREATER GEORGIA LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
WILLIAM S. DUFFEY, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Steven D.
Prelutsky's (“Plaintiff”) Amended Motion for
Attorneys' Fees .
brought this action seeking review, under the Employee
Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”),
of Defendant's denial of long term disability
(“LTD”) benefits. Plaintiff was denied LTD
benefits on the grounds that his injury was caused by,
resulted from, or related to his being intoxicated. On August
8, 2016, the Court issued its Order  reversing
Defendant's decision to deny LTD benefits. The Court
found that Defendant Greater Georgia Life Insurance Company
(“Defendant”) failed to perform an investigation
sufficient to support that Plaintiff's disability was
caused by, resulted from or related to his intoxication.
August 22, 2016, Plaintiff filed his Motion for
Attorneys' Fees . On August 31, 2016, he filed his
Amended Motion for Attorneys' Fees, fixing a
computational error in the amount of claimed back benefits
due. Plaintiff seeks back benefits of $291, 798, pre-judgment
interest, and attorneys' fees. Defendant opposes
Plaintiff's request for attorneys' fees.
to ERISA's fee-shifting provision, a district court,
“in its discretion may allow a reasonable
attorney's fee and costs of action to either party,
” 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(1), if that party achieved
“some degree of success on the merits.” Hardt
v. Reliance Standard Life Ins. Co., 560 U.S. 242, 255
(2010). This standard requires more than “trivial
success on the merits” or a “purely procedural
victory.” Id. Once it is established that a
party had “some degree” of success, the Eleventh
Circuit requires district courts to consider five factors
when deciding whether to award fees to a prevailing party:
(1) the degree of the opposing parties' culpability or
(2) the ability of the opposing parties to satisfy an award
of attorney's fees;
(3) whether an award of attorney's fees against the
opposing parties would deter other persons acting under
(4) whether the parties requesting attorney's fees sought
to benefit all participants and beneficiaries of an ERISA
plan or to resolve a significant legal question regarding
ERISA itself; [and]
(5) the relative merits of the parties' positions.
AirTran Airways, Inc. v. Elem, 767 F.3d 1192, 1201
(11th Cir. 2014) (quoting Freeman v. Continental Ins.
Co., 996 F.2d 1116, 1119 (11th Cir. 1993)). “No
one of these factors is necessarily decisive, and some may
not be apropos in a given case, but together they are the
nuclei of concerns that a court should address in applying
Section 502(g).” Iron Workers Local No. 272 v.
Bowen, 624 F.2d 1255, 1266 (5th Cir.
uncontested here that Plaintiff achieved “some degree
of success on the merits.” See Hardt, 560 U.S.
at 255. The Court next considers the five factors. As to the
first factor, the Court finds that there is no evidence that
Defendant acted in bad faith in denying LTD benefits and
engaging in litigation, and that its decision was grounded in
a plausible interpretation of the facts and the language of
the plan. The second element tips in favor of awarding
attorneys' fees, because Defendant does not appear to
contest that it is able to satisfy an attorneys' fee
award. Because Defendant's decision was grounded in a
plausible interpretation of the facts and the plan language,
the third and fifth elements tip in favor of denying
attorneys' fees. Regarding the fourth factor, Plaintiff
admits he did not file his action for the benefit of other
participants in his firm's benefits plan, but he claims
the case resolves a significant legal issue. The Court
disagrees, and finds the fourth factor tips in favor of