United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER [RESOLVING ECF NOS.
Y. PEARSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is Plaintiff's request for
attorney's fees. As the prevailing party under 29
U.S.C. § 1132(g)(1), Plaintiff seeks $26, 623 in
attorney's fees. The Court granted Plaintiff's Motion
for fees (ECF No. 43), but was unable to calculate
the lodestar because Plaintiff had not provided sufficient
information to demonstrate that counsel's fees were
reasonable. The Court instructed Plaintiff's counsel to
file supplemental material. Counsel complied. ECF No.
44. Defendant objects to several aspects of
Plaintiff's requested fee award. ECF Nos. 42,
45. For the following reasons, the Court grants the
fee award, in part.
Tina Myers commenced this action under the Employee
Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”),
29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq., against
Defendant United of Omaha Life Insurance Company. Plaintiff
challenged the Plan Administrator's decision denying her
long-term disability benefits. ECF No. 1. The Court
denied Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Merits and
remanded the matter to the Plan Administrator for a full and
fair review. ECF No. 32.
Standard of Review
Supreme Court has indicated that courts are to calculate
attorney fees using the “lodestar” method.
Blanchard v. Bergeron, 489 U.S. 87, 94 (1989);
Pennsylvania v. Delaware Valley Citizens' Council for
Clean Air, 478 U.S. 546, 565 (1986) (“Delaware
Valley I”). Under this methodology, the number of hours
reasonably expended by the attorney are multiplied by the
attorney's reasonable hourly rate. Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983); Lavin v.
Husted, 764 F.3d 646, 649 (6th Cir. 2014). There is a
“strong presumption” that the figure so
calculated represents a reasonable fee. Delaware Valley
I, 478 U.S. at 565. The lodestar, however, must be based
on the “prevailing market rates in the relevant
community.” Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 895
the burden of persuasion is on the fee applicant to document
the hours and rates in the lodestar amount, Hensley, 461
U.S. at 437, the burden of production to challenge the
reasonableness of the requested fee is on a party seeking an
adjustment of that amount-Defendant in the case at bar,
Rode v. Dellarciprete, 892 F.2d 1177, 1183 (3rd Cir.
does not object to Plaintiff's requested hourly rate, but
objects to the reasonableness of the hours expended. In
particular, Defendant argues that Plaintiff cannot receive
fees for pre-litigation expenses or time related to the fee
request, and that any fee award should be proportionate to
fees are generally “calculated according to the
prevailing market rates in the relevant community.”
Binta B. ex rel. S.A. v. Gordon, 710 F.3d 609, 627
(6th Cir. 2013). The “prevailing market” is the
“venue of the court of record”-in this instance,
Northeast Ohio. Gonter v. Hunt Valve Co., Inc., 510
F.3d 610, 618 (6th Cir. 2007); see also Adcock-Ladd v.
Sec'y of Treasury, 227 F.3d 343, 350 (6th Cir. 2000)
(relevant community is the legal community within the
court's territorial jurisdiction).
Andrew L. Margolius claims a $400 hourly rate. Attorney Emily
E. Gilbert claims a $300 hourly rate. In support of their
request, Plaintiff's counsel submits their own
declarations and resumes. ECF No. 41-2 at PageID #:
1275-77 (Declaration and Resume of Attorney Margolius)
and id. at PageID #: 1278-80 (Declaration of
Attorney Gilbert). Plaintiff's counsel also submits
examples of other cases in which similar fees have been
approved. ECF No. 44 at PageID #: 1297-1300 (citing
Rui He v. Rom, No. 1:15-CV-1869, 2017 WL 1054814
(N.D. Ohio Mar. 21, 2017) (approving counsels' $395 and
$350 hourly rates requested for work performed in a case
concerning violations of the Ohio Deceptive Trade Practices
Act) and Mosely v. City of Wickliffe, No.
1:14-cv-934 (N.D. Ohio Feb. 7, 2017) (approving a $300 hourly
rate for work completed in a Section 1983 suit).
Additionally, Plaintiff's counsel has provided affidavits
from attorneys in the Cleveland area opining that
Plaintiff's rates are reasonable. ECF No. 44-3
(Declaration of Attorney Subodh Chandra); ECF No.
44-4 (Declaration of Attorney Robert Armand Perez, Sr.).
As evidence of the fees' reasonableness, Attorney Perez
cited an ERISA case in which his own $400 hourly fee was
approved. ECF No. 44-4 at PageID #: 1327 (citing
Zuke v. Am. Airlines, Inc. Long Term Disability
Plan, No. 1:13-cv-403 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 31, 2017)).
Attorney Subodh Chandra compared Plaintiff's counsels
fees to other “fee-shifting, civil-rights
practitioners” within the region, noting that
Plaintiff's counsel's fees are often lower than other
attorneys' fees. ECF No. 44-3 at PageID #:
1315-16. Furthermore, Defendant does not dispute the
requested rates. ECF No. 42 at PageID #: 1281.
Plaintiff's counsel has demonstrated that the requested
rates are fair, and typical of those in the area, the Court
finds that the requested hourly rates are also reasonable.
Reasonableness of ...