Appealed from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (July 14, 2009)
Oral argument: April 26, 2010
ERISA, PREVAILING PARTY, ATTORNEY’S FEES, DISABILTY BENEFITS, INSURANCE
Petitioner, Bridget Hardt (“Hardt”), a former employee of Dan River Inc., brought suit against Respondent, Reliance Insurance Co. (“Reliance”), the insurance provider for Dan River Inc., in an attempt to recover attorney’s fees for a previous suit Hardt had brought in the Eastern District of Virginia to recover benefits pursuant to Dan River Inc.’s Group Long-Term Disability Insurance Program Plan (“the Plan”). The Eastern District remanded the case to Reliance, which, under ERISA, not only administers the Plan, but also decides whether an applicant is entitled to benefits. On remand, Reliance provided Hardt with the requested benefits. Hardt now sues seeking attorney’s fees under ERISA § 502(g)(1). Reliance counters that Hardt did succeed on the merits in the lower court and, therefore, cannot satisfy ERISA’s definition of “prevailing party.” Hardt, on the other hand, argues that the text of the statute does not include a prevailing party standard as a prerequisite to recovering attorney fees. In this case, the Supreme Court will decide whether ERISA § 502(g)(1) requires a party to succeed on the merits before attorney’s fees may be awarded and, if so, whether Hardt satisfies that requirement.