Continuing an apparent trend toward more frequent fee awards in ERISA cases — a trend initiated by the Supreme Court’s decision in Hardt v. Reliance Standard Life Ins. Co., 560 U.S. 242 (2010), and advanced by the Second Circuit’s decisions in Scarangella v. Group Health, Inc., 731 F.3d 146 (2d Cir. 2013) and Donachie v. Liberty Life Assurance Co. of Boston, 745 F.3d 41 (2d Cir. 2014) — the First Circuit recently deemed fee-eligible a claimant whose “victory” amounted to nothing more than a clarification as to the correct standard of review. In the case, the claimant successfully argued before the First Circuit that the district court had employed an incorrect review standard. On remand, and prior to any adjudication on the merits (under the correct standard), the claimant requested and was denied fees. On appeal again, the First Circuit (in a 2-1 decision) granted fees, deeming the success achieved by the claimant “non-trivial” and sufficiently weighty so as to warrant them.
Gross v. Sun Life Assurance Co. of Canada, 763 F.3d 73 (1st Cir. 2014)