Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Angichiodo v. Honeywell Pension and Savings Plan

United States District Court, D. Arizona

May 8, 2017

Maureen Terri Angichiodo, Plaintiff,
v.
Honeywell Pension and Savings Plan; Salaried Employees Pension Plan of AlliedSignal, Inc.; Plan Administrator of the Honeywell Pension and Savings Plan; Plan Administrator of Salaried Employees Pension Plan of AlliedSignal, Inc.; and Honeywell International, Inc., Defendants.

          ORDER

          Neil V. Wake, Senior United States District Judge

         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Non-Taxable Costs (Doc.65).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is the surviving spouse of a vested participant in Honeywell's defined benefit retirement plan (“Plan”). Plaintiff's husband elected the pre-retirement benefit option that would provide a monthly pension to his surviving spouse equal to one-half of his vested benefit if he died before retirement. Although Plaintiff's husband was eligible to retire, when he became terminally ill, he did not retire or complete forms to initiate retirement. If Plaintiff's husband had completed the retirement process before his death and had chosen a different spousal benefit option, Plaintiff could have been entitled to a monthly payment greater than the amount she is currently receiving. But neither Plaintiff nor her husband contacted the Honeywell Retirement Service Center regarding her husband's condition until after his death.

         After her husband died, Plaintiff spoke with a call center representative of the Honeywell Retirement Service Center, who incorrectly said that an employee's supervisor or human resources representative could initiate the retirement of a terminally ill employee or take other steps to ensure that a terminally ill employee retired before his death. Even if this information had been correct, Plaintiff or her husband would have had to inform the Honeywell Retirement Service Center that he was terminally ill.

         Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff was informed that “the Plan has a process to help terminally ill employees understand their pension benefits and quickly make elections if that is what they wish to do.” If Plaintiff or her husband had contacted the Honeywell Retirement Service Center, staff would have assisted by providing information and facilitating completion of paperwork, but there was no process for expediting Plaintiff's husband's retirement. The Plan imposed a minimum 45-day period required for verification and approval of a retirement application before commencement of benefits. Even if Plaintiff's husband had applied for retirement immediately upon receiving his cancer diagnosis, he died in less than 45 days, and Plaintiff still would not have received the survivor benefit for a retiree.

         On January 21, 2015, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit alleging failure to pay plan benefits, based on a miscalculation of Social Security retirement benefits, and breach of fiduciary duties “by concealing the process of retiring a terminally ill employee in order to permit the employee to make an appropriate pension election” and “by failing to properly train human resource employees and managers about the proper procedures to follow when an employee becomes terminally ill.” (Doc. 1 at 6.) Plaintiff's Amended Complaint also alleged Defendants breached their fiduciary duties by “failing to provide Plaintiff with proper explanation of benefits, ” “misrepresenting facts during the appeal process, ” “concealing information during the process, ” and “acting in their financial self-interest.” (Doc. 5 at 8.) On May 6, 2016, in response to a court order, Plaintiff stated that her claim alleging failure to pay plan benefits was resolved administratively to her satisfaction. (Doc. 50.) Subsequently the Court dismissed that count as moot. (Doc. 53.)

         On December 9, 2016, the Court granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 60.) Plaintiff sought “other appropriate equitable relief” under 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(3) to redress breaches of fiduciary duty. Her claim rested on her incorrect belief that the Honeywell Retirement Service Center had procedures to terminate a participant's employment immediately, complete a participant's application for retirement benefits on behalf of a participant, and/or expedite the time required for verification and approval of a retirement application and that the procedures were not disclosed in the information provided to Plaintiff and her husband. Defendants had no duty to disclose a procedure that did not exist.

         Defendants incurred $533, 217.46 in fees and non-taxable costs. They request award of a sufficient portion of those fees to deter groundless litigation and to reduce prejudice to other Plan participants, such as the award of ten percent of the total fees awarded in Estate of Shockley v. Alyeska Pipeline Serv. Co., 130 F.3d 403 (9th Cir. 1997).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Under 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(1), a court in its discretion may award a reasonable attorneys' fee and costs of an action under ERISA to any party. Although the statute vests judges with broad discretion, the discretion is not unlimited. Hardt v. Reliance Standard Life Ins. Co., 560 U.S. 242, 255 (2010). Before fees may be awarded under § 1132(g)(1), a fees claimant must show “some degree of success on the merits, ” which requires more than “trivial success on the merits” or a “purely procedural victory.” Id. The court may award fees without lengthy inquiry into whether a party's success was substantial or on a central issue if the court can fairly call it “some success on the merits.” Id.

         If a district court concludes that the fees claimant has achieved “some degree of success on the merits, ” the court must consider the Hummell factors before exercising discretion to award fees. Simonia v. Glendale Nissan/Infinity Disability Plan, 608 F.3d 1118, 1121 (9th Cir. 2010). The Hummell factors are:

(1) the degree of the opposing parties' culpability or bad faith; (2) the ability of the opposing parties to satisfy an award of fees; (3) whether an award of fees against the opposing parties would deter others from acting under similar circumstances; (4) whether the parties requesting fees sought to benefit all participants and beneficiaries of an ERISA plan or to resolve a significant legal question regarding ERISA; and (5) the relative merits of the parties' positions.

Hummell v. S.E. Rykoff & Co., 634 F.2d 446, 453 (9th Cir. 1980). “However, no single Hummell factor is necessarily decisive.” Simonia, ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.