U.S. Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in Hardt v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance: Under What Circumstances Can a Court Award Attorneys' Fees in ERISA Actions?

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The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding that section 502(g)(1) of ERISA provides a district court discretion to award attorney fees only to a prevailing party, and Hardt was not a prevailing party because her only request for relief was the award of benefits, which the district court did not award.

The questions presented were: (1) Whether ERISA section 502(g)(1) provides a district court with discretion to award reasonable attorney’s fees only to a prevailing party; and (2) whether a party is entitled to attorney’s fees pursuant to section 502(g)(1) when she persuades a district court that a violation of ERISA has occurred, successfully secures a judicially ordered remand requiring a redetermination of entitlement to benefits, and subsequently receives the benefits sought on remand.

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