Despite Losing Summary Judgment, Defendant Did Voluntarily Change Behavior From Plaintiffs’ Suit.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals, in a non-precedential (unpublished) opinion, has decided that an ERISA plaintiff can recovery fees, at the district court’s discretion, under a catalyst theory. In Boyle v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 863 Welfare Fund, No. 12-4578 (3d Cir. Aug. 28, 2014) (not precedential), the federal court of appeals reversed a district court’s denial of fees to plaintiffs losing a summary judgment in an ERISA case but prompting the former employer to retroactively reinstate benefits to early retirees and to reimburse them for alternative health coverage. Relying on Hardt v. Reliance Stnd. Life Ins., 560 U.S. 242, 252-253 (2010) which rejected a “prevailing party” standard for ERISA fee recovery, the Third Circuit reasoned that some degree of success on merits justified fees, which is what happened in the case and resulted in a remand to award fees down the line.