In this case, a union filed an employee benefits action against defendant contending that defendant violated the parties’ participation agreement, collective bargaining agreement (CBA), and 29 USC §1145 by failing to pay delinquent employee benefit contributions owed under the agreements, as well as liquidated damages and audit fees. Plaintiffs further claimed that defendant was liable for additional compensatory relief including reasonable attorneys’ fees. The court granted plaintiff’s motion for a default judgment.
NYS Teamsters Conference Pension & Ret. Fund v. E. Reg’l. Contracting Inc., NYLJ August 10, 2020, Date filed: 2020-07-20, Court: U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, Judge: District Judge Glenn Suddaby, Case Number: 5:19-CV-0165:
“As to attorneys’ fees, Plaintiffs request a total of $11,245.00. (Dkt. No. 14, Attach. 4.) In support of this request, Plaintiffs submitted time records related to their counsel’s work on this matter encompassing 34.60 hours for attorney Gerald J. Green, Esq., at a rate of $325 per hour. (Dkt. No. 14, Attach. 1, at 70-71.) In his declaration, Attorney Green states that he has been employed as Plaintiffs’ litigation counsel since 1986, that he practices primarily in ERISA litigation matters, and that he is admitted to practice before this Court. (Dkt. No. 14, Attach. 1, at 5 [Green Decl.].) This Court has established that $240 is the hourly rate that is prevailing in this District for similar services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skill, experience, and reputation. See UFCW Local One Health Care Fund v. JRR II, Inc., 18-CV-1200, 2019 WL 1115852, at *5 (N.D.N.Y. Mar. 11, 2019) (Sharpe, J.) (granting $240 per hour for an experienced attorney where there was no evidence offered to justify a higher rate, such as information about the novelty of the case, the ERISA related experience of the attorneys, or another case specific variable); Board of Trustees of Laborers Pension Fund of Local Union No. 186 v. Casale Construction Servs., Inc., 18-CV-0583, 2018 WL 6047825, at *3-4 (N.D.N.Y. Nov. 19, 2018) (D’Agostino, J.) (finding $240 per hour to be a reasonable rate for an experienced attorney in an ERISA case). However, Courts have occasionally found that higher fees are also reasonable, particularly where there is evidence presented of counsel’s superior experience in the particular field of law. See Easter v. Cayuga Medical Cntr. at Ithaca Prepaid Health Plan, 14-CV-1403, 2017 WL 3267922, at *3 (N.D.N.Y. July 31, 2017) (Sannes, J.) (finding that rates between $245 and $275 were reasonable based on the attorneys’ substantial and relevant experience in ERISA matters and civil litigation); Engineers Joint Welfare Fund v. C. Destro Develop. Co., Inc., 178 F. Supp. 3d 27, 35-36 (N.D.N.Y. 2016) (Kahn, J.) (noting that this court has upheld as reasonable hourly rates between $250 and $345 for partners and $165 and $200 for senior associates) (citing Pope v. Cnty. of Albany, 11-CV-0736, 2015 WL 5510944, at *9 [N.D.N.Y. Sept. 16, 2015] [Kahn, J.]).
Here, Plaintiffs have provided evidence that Attorney Green has been engaged in ERISA litigation work since 1986, more 30 years. The Court finds that counsel’s experience merits an upward departure from the most-cited rate of $240, but that a rate of $275 is the more appropriate than the requested rate of $325 (based on a careful review of all of the relevant case law and the fact that there is no indication that this matter was overly complex or required any highly specialized knowledge or experience that would merit increasing the hourly rate further). As a result, the Court finds that Plaintiffs are entitled to only $9,515.00 in attorneys’ fees.”