United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
BRYAN M. HAYHURST, PLAINTIFF,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, DEFENDANT.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
HONORABLE SARA LIOI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is plaintiff's motion for an award of attorney
fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 406(b)(1) in the amount of
$11, 794.75. (Doc. No. 18.) Defendant has responded that the
she has identified no reason to oppose the motion. (Doc. No.
19.) For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.
December 7, 2012, plaintiff Bryan M. Hayhurst
(“Hayhurst”) filed applications for disability
insurance benefits and supplemental security income, alleging
a disability onset date of January 1, 2012. Following initial
denials of his applications, Hayhurst requested a hearing
before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). After
the hearing, the ALJ issued a written decision on March 10,
2015, finding Hayhurst not disabled. On January 12, 2016, the
Appeals Council denied Hayhurst's request for review,
rendering the ALJ's decision final.
March 9, 2016, Hayhurst filed a civil action seeking this
Court's review of the Commissioner's decision. On
October 12, 2016, the parties jointly requested that the case
be remanded for further administrative proceedings. This
request was granted and the case was remanded. (See
Doc. No. 15.)
sought and obtained an award under the Equal Access to
Justice Act (“EAJA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2412, in
the amount of $6, 650.00 in attorney fees. (See Doc.
7, 2017, following further administrative proceedings on
remand, the Commissioner found Hayhurst disabled as of
January 1, 2012. He was awarded past due benefits.
Fee Awards Under § 406(b)
42 U.S.C. § 406(b)(1)(A), following a favorable judgment
on a Social Security disability appeal, the Court may award
attorney fees not in excess of 25% of the past-due benefits
received by the claimant. Boggs v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., No. 2:14-CV-613, 2017 WL 3608249, at *1 (S.D. Ohio
Aug. 21, 2017) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 406(b)(1); Lowery
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 940 F.Supp.2d 689, 691 (S.D.
Ohio 2013)). Section 406(b)(1)(A) places a 25% cap on the
amount of fees recoverable, and requires that the fee award
be reasonable in light of services rendered. Gisbrecht v.
Barnhart, 535 U.S. 789, 807, 122 S.Ct. 1817, 152 L.Ed.2d
996 (2002). “The Court may award fees only for work
performed before the Court and not before the Social Security
Administration.” Pendland v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., No. 1:08-CV-485, 2011 WL 4891025 at *1 (S.D. Ohio
Sept. 21, 2011) (citing Horenstein v. Sec'y of Health
& Human Servs., 35 F.3d 261, 262 (6th Cir. 1994) (en
Circuit “precedent accords a rebuttable presumption of
reasonableness to contingency-fee agreements that comply with
§ 406(b)'s 25-percent cap.” Lasley v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 771 F.3d 308, 309 (6th Cir.
2014) (citing Hayes v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 923 F.2d 418, 421 (6th Cir. 1991); Rodriquez
v. Bowen, 865 F.2d 739, 746 (6th Cir. 1989) (en banc)).
Deductions to large fees are only made in two situations:
“1) those occasioned by improper conduct or
ineffectiveness of counsel; and 2) situations in which
counsel would otherwise enjoy a windfall because of
either an inordinately large benefit award or from minimal
effort expended.” Hayes, 923 F.2d at
420-421 (emphasis added in original) (quoting
Rodriquez, 865 F.2d at 746).
Sixth Circuit has held that “a windfall can never occur
when, in a case where a contingent fee contract exists, the
hypothetical hourly rate determined by dividing the number of
hours worked for the claimant into the amount of the fee
permitted under the contract is less than twice the standard
rate for such work in the relevant market.”
Id. at 422 (footnotes omitted). In fact, “a
hypothetical hourly rate that is less than twice the standard
rate is per se reasonable[.]” Id.
neither of the two situations permitting a fee deduction is
applicable to a § 406 fee petition, then “an
agreement for a 25% fee, the maximum permitted under §
206(b) of the Social Security Act, 42 ...