Litigation Against Insurers: Attorney Fees

Sometimes, when an insurer denies or terminates a case, it become necessary to sue the insurance company in an effort to recover benefits. These lawsuits can become time-consuming and costly quickly.  This begs the question – can you recover attorney fees and costs if you are ultimately successful in your lawsuit?  The answer is, it depends.

One illustrative case is that of Sutton v. MetLife[1].  Sutton filed for disability with his insurer, MetLife, when he became disabled due to severe back pain.  He filed in 2018 and MetLife initially began paying benefits; however, they terminated his claim about a year later after consulting with a physician.  After an appeal was unsuccessful, Sutton sued MetLife. The parties ultimately reached a settlement agreement, with MetLife paying the full value of the disputed benefits.

After this, Sutton requested an award for his attorneys’ fees and costs.  In its decision, the Court explained that they may award reasonable fees and costs to any party who has achieved some degree of success on the merits.

In this case, MetLife did not dispute this fact.  However, the parties did dispute the amount of the fees Sutton’s attorneys were eligible for.  MetLife had several arguments against paying the full amount of attorneys’ fees, to include contesting what attorney time should count, alleging that Sutton’s attorneys engaged in duplicative billing as well as “block billing”, and asserting that Sutton’s attorneys should have accepted MetLife’s offer to pay a discounted award.

The Court did not find these arguments persuasive, and awarded $102,179.00 in fees and $828.40 in costs.

If you are considering litigation against your insurer for denial of benefits, please feel free to reach out to one of our attorneys directly.

Every claim is unique and the discussion above is only a limited summary of the court’s ruling in this case. If you are concerned about litigation against your insurer, an experienced disability insurance attorney can help you assess the situation and determine what options, if any, are available.

[1] Sutton v. MetLIfe Ins. Co., No. 2:20-cv-00698-KJM-CKD, 2022 WL 2177123 (E.D. Cal. June 16, 2022).


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