Kevin Horbatiuk Obtains Reduction In Fees And Interest In ERISA Case

April 25, 2019

Kevin Horbatiuk received a favorable decision for our client in the case Cohen v. Life Insurance Company of North America, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Civil Action No. 17 CV 9270) from District Judge J. Paul Oetken. Plaintiff sought an award of fees under ERISA in the amount of $57,910.00, $710.49 in costs and $9,357.53 in interest calculated using the 9 percent statutory interest rate in the CPLR.  Judge Oetken acknowledged that Cohen was entitled to fees under ERISA, that his counsel's rates were reasonable based upon current case law in the Southern District and that the amount of costs he sought was reasonable.  He adopted however the arguments Kevin put forth that Cohen's counsel's manner of timekeeping was problematic due to vague and heavily redacted entries which made it difficult for the Court to determine the reasonableness of the time attributed to numerous tasks.  He thus disallowed $11,763.75 in legal fees amounted to an across the board reduction of just over 20 percent.  He also concluded that using the State Court statutory interest rate of 9 percent resulted in a windfall for Cohen and was punitive and inappropriate in light of the lack of any evidence that the denial was done with evil intent.  He found that a 5 percent interest rate was more appropriate under the circumstances.  This resulted in a further reduction in interest from $9,357.53 to $5,198.63.  This decision is very helpful ERISA case law in a jurisdiction in which insurers rarely see favorable case law.

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