Gesualdi v. Laws Construction

Attorney Fees

New York Law Journal


Judge Denise Cote

Having successfully maintained an action under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA") on behalf of certain union benefit funds, to recover unpaid contributions owed by Laws Construction Corp., plaintiffs sought an award of $216, 853 in attorney fees under one of ERISA's cost-shifting provisions, 29 U.S.C. §1132(g)(2). Laws objected to the number of hours billed arguing that fees should not be awarded for any work on plaintiffs' original summary judgment motion or on appeal, because Laws successfully appealed and the original judgment vacated. The court disagreed, finding it not entirely accurate to describe Laws as successful on appeal, and that it was clear from the statute that plaintiffs were entitled to fees for all work performed on a case. Laws also argued plaintiffs' fee request unreasonable as disproportionate to the amount of delinquent contributions. The court disagreed finding no requirement in this context that the amount of an award of attorney fees be proportional to the amount of damages. Thus, the court held plaintiffs entitled to their full request of $216,853. It noted the figure did not include the time spent establishing their entitlement to the fees, even though plaintiffs were due those fees as well.

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