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United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
February 15, 1984, Argued and Submitted ; November 2, 1984, Decided
[*588] FERGUSON, Circuit Judge:
This case is before the court to review the district court's denial of plaintiff's motion for attorney's fees under section 502(g)(1) of the Employee Retirement Income and Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(1). We hold that the district court abused its discretion in denying fees and therefore reverse and remand.
The plaintiff, Don Ray Smith, brought this action against the CMTA-IAM Pension Trust to recover benefits which he claimed had been wrongfully withheld for a period [*589] of over 3-1/2 years. Smith represented himself until faced with the trust's motion to dismiss or for summary judgment, and for fees. He then hired counsel, but the district [**2] court dismissed Smith's action with prejudice nevertheless. On appeal this court affirmed in part and reversed in part. Smith v. CMTA-IAM Pension Trust, 654 F.2d 650 (9th Cir. 1981). Upon remand, the parties settled. Included in the settlement agreement was the following paragraph:
C. The parties hereto will seek to reach an agreement concerning the payment of attorney's fees for Don Ray Smith. In the event of a failure by the parties to reach such an agreement, Don Ray Smith or his attorney may petition the Court for said fees. Failure of the parties to reach an agreement concerning attorney's fees shall not have any effect upon the finality of this settlement agreement.
The parties could not agree on the payment of plaintiff's attorney's fees, and Smith moved for fees before the district court pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(1). His motion was denied and he appeals. Smith also seeks fees and costs for this appeal.
] ERISA provides that "the court in its discretion may allow a reasonable attorney's fee and costs of action to either party." § 502(g)(1), 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(1). A decision denying [**3] fees will be set aside if the district court (1) abused its discretion, Hummell v. S.E. Rykoff & Co., 634 F.2d 446, 452 (9th Cir. 1980); (2) failed to state the reasons for its decision, id. at 452-53; or (3) used incorrect legal standards to reach its decision. Lummi Indian Tribe v. Oltman, 720 F.2d 1124, 1125 (9th Cir. 1983). If the district court fails to state the reasons for its decision a remand for a statement of reasons may be necessary. Hummell, 634 F.2d at 452-53.
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
746 F.2d 587 *; 1984 U.S. App. LEXIS 17089 **; 5 Employee Benefits Cas. (BNA) 2428
DON RAY SMITH, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CMTA-IAM PENSION TRUST, et al., Defendants-Appellees
Prior History: [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. William H. Orrick, District Judge, Presiding
attorney's fees, district court, parties, factors, bad faith, prevailing, purposes, settlement agreement, pension, award of fees, bring suit, circumstances, abused
Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, Pensions & Benefits Law, Damages, Costs & Attorney Fees, Court Costs, ERISA, Civil Litigation, Civil Litigation, General Overview, Discretionary Fees, Attorney Fees & Expenses, Basis of Recovery, Statutory Awards, Civil Rights Law, Procedural Matters, Statutory Attorney Fee Awards, Business & Corporate Compliance, ERISA Pension Plan Qualification Requirements, Participation & Vesting, Vesting Requirements