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High Court Considers ERISA Fees Case

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The U.S. Supreme Court today heard oral arguments concerning a benefits law case in which the defendant is a life insurer.

The case, Hardt vs. Reliance Standard, Number 09-448, involves an employee who sued over benefits calculations governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

The insurer, Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company, Philadelphia, a unit of Delphi Financial Group Inc., Wilmington, Del. (NYSE:DFG), ended up agreeing to pay the benefits but wanted to avoid having to pay attorney’s fees.

The Supreme Court has asked the parties whether 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals erred when it held that Section 502(g)(1) of ERISA gives the district court discretion to award reasonable attorney’s fees only to a prevailing party.

The court also has asked the parties whether a party is entitled to attorney’s fees under ERISA Section 502(g)(1) when she wins the case at the district court level and then gets benefits through a “judicially ordered remand requiring a redetermination of entitlement to benefits.”

More information about Hardt vs. Reliance Standard is available here.