Fifth Circuit Awards Attorney's Fees to Insurer
SPENRATH v. THE GUARDIAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, C.A. No. 13-20196. (5th Cir. Apr. 18, 2014) (per curiam) involved a claim for disability benefits under ERISA. Although this case cannot be cited as a precedent it is important for the appellate trap. Here the district court affirmed Guardian's denial of Ms. Spenrath's claim for disability benefits and awarded attorney's fees to Guardian. Spenrath appealed arguing there was substantial evidence in the record to support her claim for disability benefits. Fifth Circuit said the test was not whether there was substantial evidence supporting disability but whether there was substantial evidence supporting the denial which the Fifth Circuit said there was.
The Fifth Circuit also addressed Spenrath's argument that Guardian failed to credit her evidence. The Court found that Guardian addressed the evidence that Spenrath provided. The Court determined that Guardian correctly weighed the evidence and credited the opinions of its hired experts over the opinion of the treating physician.
The Court noted that Spenrath did not address the district court's award of attorney's fees on appeal. Instead Spenrath merely asked for her fees if successful. Thus the Court found that Spenrath waived any objection to the district court's award. The Court noted that Guardian asked for attorney's fees on appeal and the Court awarded Guardian $6000 in fees on appeal. The Court said that Guardian was successful on appeal and it noted that Spenrath's arguments on appeal were weak as the reason for the award.