United States District Court, D. Delaware
pending before the court are cross-motions for attorneys'
fees and costs filed by Plaintiff Mark Matthews and Defendant
E.I. duPont de Nemours and Company ("DuPont").
(D.I. 84; D.I. 95). For the reasons set forth below,
Plaintiffs motion is granted in part and denied in part, and
DuPont's motion is denied.
filed his initial complaint in this action on December 2,
2014 and an amended complaint on April 21, 2015. (D.I. 1;
D.I. 19). The amended complaint asserted four counts against
Defendants DuPont and Hewitt Associates, LLC (collectively,
"Defendants"). (D.I. 19 at ¶¶ 49-68).
Count I sought a recovery of Plan benefits under ERISA §
502(a)(1)(B), codified at 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B).
(Id.). Count II sought a tax "gross-up"
for any Plan benefits recovered. (Id.). Count III
alleged that Defendants breached a fiduciary duty by making
material misrepresentations. (Id.). And Count IV
alleged that Defendants should be equitably estopped based on
the same misrepresentations. (Id.).
September 4, 2015, Plaintiff moved for summary judgment on
Count I to recover Plan benefits. (D.I. 36). In support of
his motion, Plaintiff argued that: (1) Defendants incorrectly
calculated the offset from Plaintiffs Qualified Domestic
Relations Order ("QDRO"); (2) Defendants
incorrectly calculated Plaintiffs partial years of service by
assuming there were 30 days in each calendar month and 360
days in a calendar year; and (3) Defendants incorrectly
calculated Plaintiffs Primary Social Security Benefit
("PSSB") by excluding any social security earnings
from 1966 to 1973, when Plaintiff did not work at DuPont.
(D.I. 37 at 12-20; D.I. 47 at 1-3). In his reply brief,
Plaintiff raised an additional argument regarding the PSSB
calculation: that Dupont improperly excluded his social
security earnings from 2013. (D.I. 47 at 2).
court treated Plaintiffs motion as a cross-motion for summary
judgment and granted partial summary judgment in
Defendants' favor on Count I. Specifically, Hewitt won on
all three arguments, because Plaintiff could not recover any
benefits from Hewitt as a matter of law. (D.I. 47 at 6; D.I.
48). DuPont won on all three arguments under Count I, except
the part of the PSSB argument related to Plaintiffs social
security earnings from 2013. (D.I. 47; D.I. 48). For the
argument related to the 2013 earnings, the court instead
ordered that the parties provide further information. (D.I.
48). Plaintiff subsequently notified the court that he would
not further pursue the dispute over the 2013 earnings,
because it was "de minimis." (D.I. 51).
Thus, judgment for Defendants on Count I could be entered
when the court issued its ruling on the remaining counts.
(Id.). After a bench trial, the court issued an
opinion on June 28, 2016, finding in favor of Defendants on
Counts II, III, and IV. (D.I. 63). Judgment was entered that
same day. (D.I. 64).
26, 2016, Plaintiff filed a notice of appeal with the Third
Circuit. (D.I. 65). Plaintiffs appeal encompassed only one
sub-issue of Count I: the court's summary judgment
decision regarding the QDRO. (See Appellant's
Opening Brief Nov. 7, 2016 at p.2). On March 16, 2017, the
Third Circuit agreed with Plaintiff on the QDRO issue and
reversed the judgment as to DuPont on Count I. See
Matthews v. E.I. DuPont De Nemours & Co., 682
Fed.Appx. 148, 150 (3d Cir. 2017). The parties agree that, as
a result, Plaintiff is entitled to past due benefits in the
amount of $9, 170.00. (D.I. 105). On March 30, 2017,
Plaintiff filed a Motion and Application for an Award of
Attorney's Fees with the Third Circuit. The Third Circuit
referred Plaintiffs Motion for Attorney's Fees to this
court. (D.I. 74). Thereafter, DuPont filed its cross-motion
for attorneys' fees. (D.I. 95).
Plaintiffs Fee Request
applying a billing discretion reduction, Plaintiff requests a
grand total of $166, 261.66 in fees and costs for 579.01
hours of work. (D.I. 92 at 2; D.I. 85 at 10-11; D.I. 96 at
13). According to Plaintiff, these hours do not include time
spent on Counts II-IV. (D.I. 85 at 3 n. 4). Plaintiffs fee
request reflects an hourly rate of $350 for lead counsel and
$200 for law clerks. (Id. 85 at 5). Finally,
Plaintiff requests pre- and post-judgment interest at 8.25%
per annum, and asks that the interest be applied to his past
due benefits as well as his attorneys' fees and costs.
(Id. at 11, 20).
does not contest that Plaintiff is entitled to reasonable
attorney's fees and costs, nor does it contest the amount
of fees requested (other than the request for 8.25%
interest). (D.I. 96 at 3). Nevertheless, two adjustments, due
to typos, must be made to Plaintiffs numbers. First, in his
opening brief, Plaintiff requested $133, 388.00 in fees and
$4, 112.16 in costs. (D.I. 85 at 20). The $133, 388.00 in
fees is composed of two amounts: $74, 213.00 from certain
activities in the District Court and $59, 175.00 from certain
activities in the Third Circuit. (Id. at 6-7).
Adding up the underlying numbers shows that $74,
213.00 should actually be $74, 210.30.
(See Id. at 8-10). Thus, Plaintiff should have
initially requested $133, 385.30 in fees (not $133, 388.00)
and $4, 112.16 in costs.
the amounts requested in Plaintiffs opening brief represent
activity only until August 31, 2017. (D.I. 85 at 17, 20).
Plaintiff later requested, via letter, an additional $27,
465.00 in attorneys' fees and $1, 306.00 in costs to
cover activity between September 1, 2017 and January 31,
2018. (D.I. 92). The February 2, 2018 letter contains another
typo. According to the letter, the grand total request in
fees and costs (reached by adding together the totals
provided in the opening brief and the letter) is $166,
261.66. (Id.). But adding up the underlying numbers
shows that $166, 261.66 (without correcting the earlier typo)
should be $166, 271.66. (Id. at 2). After correcting
for both typos, Plaintiff actually seeks a grand total of
DuPont's Fee Request
requests $123, 048.25 in attorneys' fees and costs for
succeeding on all but one issue. (D.I. 96 at 1 & 3).
DuPont's request is comprised of two numbers: $92, 906.25
for trial work and $30, 142.00 for work related to the fee
applications. (Id. at 12). DuPont's fee request
reflects 269 hours of trial work. (Id. at 12). In
its fee request, DuPont applies the same blended rate of
$350.00 per hour used by Plaintiff (which resulted in a
further reduction of its trial counsels' fees).
(Id. at 13-14). Finally, DuPont argues that its
request for attorneys' fees should be offset against
Plaintiffs request for attorneys' fees. (Id. at