Vangas et al v. Montefiore Medical Center et al
OPINION AND ORDER: For the reasons set forth above, the Court finds in favor of Defendant MMC on the COBRA claim and denies Plaintiffs' request for attorney's fees and costs. The Clerk of the Court is directed to enter judgment accordingly and close the case. SO ORDERED. (Signed by Judge Edgardo Ramos on 11/05/2014) (ama)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
MIRELLE VANGAS and ALFREDO VANGAS, JR.,
MONTEFIORE MEDICAL CENTER, ELIZABETH,
BURNS, PATRICIA QUINN, and WAGEWORKS, INC., :
OPINION AND ORDER
11 Civ. 6722 (ER)
Plaintiff Mirelle Vangas was diagnosed with cancer on March 25, 2010. She was
terminated by her employer Montefiore Medical Center (“MMC”) on August 30, 2010, after she
exhausted her Family Medical Leave Act leave of absence and was unable to return to work.
Mrs. Vangas and her husband Alfredo Vangas, Jr. (“Plaintiffs”) brought this action against
MMC, Elizabeth Burns and Patricia Quinn (“Defendants”), 1 alleging, inter alia, that MMC
violated the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (“COBRA” or the “Act”) by
failing to properly send notification of Plaintiffs’ right to continue coverage under MMC’s
medical plan following Mrs. Vangas’ termination. Additionally, Mrs. Vangas alleged that
Defendants failed to accommodate her disability in violation of the New York State Human
Rights Law (“NYSHRL”), and failed to notify her of the cancellation of her employee benefits
within five days of her termination from MMC in violation of the New York Labor Law
(“NYLL”). Following a five-day trial in June 2014, the Court granted judgment as a matter of
law to Mrs. Vangas on the NYLL claim. The jury then found in Mrs. Vangas’ favor on the
On February 21, 2013, Plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed all of their claims for relief against Defendant WageWorks,
Inc. Doc. 46.
NYSHRL claim, 2 and awarded damages in the total amount of $541,000. 3
Pending before the Court are Plaintiffs’ claims for relief under COBRA. 4 Plaintiffs argue
that Defendant MMC failed to properly notify them of their right to continue coverage under
MMC’s medical plan, in violation of 29 U.S.C. § 1166(a)(4)(A). Compl. ¶¶ 118, 121.
Specifically, Plaintiffs, who lived in the town Cornwall on Hudson, New York, claim that they
did not receive proper notice of their COBRA rights because the notification letter was
improperly addressed to the abbreviated “Cornwallonhuds, New York.” Plaintiffs seek
reimbursement of medical expenses, 5 statutory damages in the amount of $110 per day from the
date MMC was obligated to provide notice until the date judgment is entered, 6 and attorney’s
fees and costs. Id. ¶¶ 119, 122. MMC contends that it fulfilled its obligations under COBRA
because courts apply a good faith standard to the Act’s notification provision.
For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds in favor of MMC on the COBRA claim
and denies Plaintiffs’ request for attorney’s fees and costs.
Mrs. Vangas similarly alleged that Defendants failed to accommodate her disability in violation of the New York
City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”). During the trial, the Court dismissed the NYCHRL claim for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction.
The jury awarded Mrs. Vangas damages as follows: $155,000 in the form of back pay for the NYSHRL claim;
$190,000 in the form of front pay for the NYSHRL claim; $181,000 in compensatory damages for the NYSHRL
claim; and $15,000 in connection with the NYLL claim.
There is no right to a jury trial in an action to recover benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act
(ERISA), of which COBRA is a part. See O’Hara v. Nat’l Union Fire Ins. Co., 642 F.3d 110, 116 (2d Cir. 2011).
According to Plaintiffs, Mrs. Vangas incurred medical expenses in the amount of $13,635.64 in September 2010,
and medical expenses in the amount of $10,583.00 thereafter. Am. Joint Pretrial Order at 34.
Plaintiffs do not specify a total amount of statutory damages in their post-trial submission. According to the
Amended Pretrial Order, Plaintiffs seek a total of $154,110 each in statutory damages in connection with their
COBRA claims. Am. Joint Pretrial Order at 35.
Facts Adduced at Trial
Mirelle Vangas, an employee of MMC since 1989, was diagnosed with cancer on March
25, 2010. Transcript of Trial (“Tr.”) 79:2, 78:14-15; Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 2. Mrs. Vangas took an
immediate leave of absence from MMC upon her diagnosis. Tr. 78:18-21 (M. Vangas). Though
Mrs. Vangas was scheduled to return to work on August 30, 2010, she was unable to do so
because of new symptoms. Tr. 136:9-21 (M. Vangas). MMC terminated Mrs. Vangas on the
same day. Tr. 443:8 (Kathleen Byrne).
Plaintiffs reside at 16 Wood Avenue, Cornwall on Hudson, New York 12520. Tr.
197:12-198:2 (M. Vangas). At trial, Defendants introduced a letter dated September 27, 2010,
which was generated to notify Plaintiffs of their right under COBRA to continue medical
coverage under MMC’s medical plan. See Defs. Ex. C-3. Plaintiffs’ street address and zip code
are correctly reflected in the notification letter. However, the town name in the notice is
abbreviated to “Cornwallonhuds.” Id.
a. MMC Procedures for COBRA Notification
Eileen Montalto, the Director of Benefits at MMC, testified that COBRA gives the
terminated employee the right to continue his or her employer-sponsored medical plans for
themselves and their families upon the loss of benefits through their employment. Tr. 581:20-22.
According to Ms. Montalto, MMC maintains a service agreement with WageWorks, an outside
vendor, to administer MMC’s COBRA benefits. Tr. 582:5-6, 582:8-10. Ms. Montalto testified
concerning the procedures followed by WageWorks when an employee is terminated by MMC.
Upon the termination of an employee, MMC sends WageWorks an electronic file relating to the
employee through MMC’s benefits administrator, Aon Hewitt. Tr. 582:14-17, 582:21-23.
Typically within the next three to five business days after it receives a terminated employee’s
file, WageWorks will mail a letter to the employee that sets forth both the cost of COBRA
coverage and the 60-day period within which the employee must enroll for the coverage. Tr.
582:14-17, 592:4-6. A copy of the letter purportedly mailed to Plaintiffs was received in
evidence as Defs. Ex. C-3. 7 If the 60-day enrollment period elapses and the terminated
employee does not enroll, WageWorks sends a letter notifying the employee that he or she is no
longer eligible for the benefit. Tr. 586:8-12. A copy of the letter advising Plaintiffs that they
were no longer eligible for coverage due to non-enrollment, which was purportedly mailed to
Plaintiffs, was received in evidence as Defs. Ex. G-3.
b. MMC’s Mailing of COBRA Notification to Plaintiffs
Mr. and Mrs. Vangas both testified that they never received the required COBRA notice.
Tr. 169:25, 467:15. Testimony presented at trial suggests that the COBRA notice was never
received because Plaintiffs’ address was entered incorrectly on the notice. According to Ms.
Montalto, the “Cornwallonhuds” abbreviation would have been used because MMC’s
information system allows for 14 or 15 characters in the ‘town’ field, and any town name in
excess of this limit is truncated. Tr. 594:1-4. 8
Despite Plaintiffs’ testimony that they never received the COBRA notice, Ms. Montalto
testified that she has access to WageWorks’ systems and was able to see that, in accordance with
the procedures described above, the file was received by WageWorks on September 24, 2010,
Ms. Montalto stated that MMC relies on WageWorks to send the letter to the terminated employee. Tr. 584:5.
MMC argues that despite the abbreviated town name in the notice, it is entitled to the presumption that the letter
was received by Plaintiffs because there is only one “Wood Avenue” in Cornwall on Hudson, and only one zip code
in use for the town. Tr. 197:18, 305:11-14, 306:18-19. Plaintiffs contend that MMC did not exercise reasonable
care in notifying Plaintiffs of their COBRA rights because, inter alia, the United States Postal Service recognizes
only one “acceptable” abbreviation for Cornwall on Hudson: “CORNWALL HDSN.” Pls. Mem. L. 7; see Pls. Ex.
and that the letter was mailed on September 27, 2010. Tr. 593:3, 592:23-25.
Mrs. Vangas testified that in October 2010 she received a letter from MMC, dated
September 23, 2010, informing her that her health benefits would continue through the end of the
month of her last official day as a Montefiore associate. See Pls. Ex. 40. 9 The letter also
indicated that WageWorks would be sending Mrs. Vangas a COBRA enrollment kit. Id.
Importantly, like the COBRA notification letter at issue here, the September 23 letter also
utilized the abbreviation “Cornwallonhuds, New York.” Id. In addition, unlike the COBRA
notification letter, the September 23 letter did not include the zip code. There is no dispute,
however, that Mrs. Vangas did receive the September 23 letter. See Tr. 265:11. Despite Mrs.
Vangas’ receipt of this letter, Ms. Montalto testified that she had no record or knowledge of Mrs.
Vangas’ contacting MMC’s Benefits Department at any point. Tr. 594:9-10.
Mrs. Vangas also acknowledged that she had previously received at least 18 pieces of
mail from MMC and other sources that were abbreviated as follows: (i) Cornwall, New York;
(ii) Cornwall On Hud, New York; and (iii) Cornwall Hdsn, New York.
Tr. 163:11, 168:15, 260:10, 260:25, 262:18, 262:20; 263:2, 263:7, 263:12, 263:24, 264:8,
264:14, 264:17, 264:19; see Pls. Exs. 1-4, 5, 8-9, 10-13, 15, 17-20, 22-23.
a. The Standard
The purpose of COBRA is to allow employees who lose their jobs to continue their
medical coverage at approximately the group rate, which is lower than the rate for individual
coverage. See Local 217, Hotel & Rest. Emps. Union v. MHM, Inc., 976 F.2d 805, 809 (2d Cir.
Mrs. Vangas recalled receiving the September 23, 2010 letter in or around the beginning of October 2010. Tr.
160:22. The letter is postmarked September 27, 2010. Tr. 160:18.
1992). The notification requirements of COBRA are clear: when a covered employee is
terminated, an employer must notify the administrator of the group health care plan within thirty
days, 29 U.S.C. § 1166(a)(2); the administrator then has fourteen days to notify the qualified
beneficiary of her right to continue coverage, id. § 1166(a)(4).
“COBRA does not require actual receipt of notification by the plan participant; to the
contrary, only a good faith attempt to notify is required.” Ramos v. SEIU Local 74 Welfare
Fund, No. 01 Civ. 2700 (SAS), 2002 WL 519731, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 5, 2002); see also Chiari
v. N.Y. Racing Ass’n Inc., 972 F. Supp. 2d 346, 364 (E.D.N.Y. 2013) (quoting Polito v. Tri-Wire
Eng’g Solution, Inc., 699 F. Supp. 2d 480, 489 (E.D.N.Y. 2010)). This “good faith” standard
obligates employers to use means “reasonably calculated” to reach plan participants. See
Phillips v. Saratoga Harness Racing, Inc., 233 F. Supp. 2d 361, 365 (N.D.N.Y. 2002) (internal
citations omitted); see also Crotty v. Dakotacare Admin. Servs., Inc., 455 F.3d 828, 830 (8th Cir.
2006) (stating that COBRA does not require proof of actual notice, so long as the administrator
has sent the notice by means reasonably calculated to reach the recipient). Moreover, an
employer or plan administrator who sends proper notice to the covered employee’s last known
address is deemed to be in good faith compliance with COBRA’s notification requirements.
Chesney v. Valley Stream Union Free Sch. Dist. No. 24, No. 05 Civ. 5106 (DRH) (ETB), 2009
WL 936602, at *4 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 31, 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
In the Second Circuit, there is a presumption that a letter properly addressed and mailed
is received. Tufano v. Riegel Transp., Inc., No. CV 03-0977 (JO), 2006 WL 335693, at *4
(E.D.N.Y. Feb. 11, 2006) (quoting DeSimone v. Siena Coll., No. 90-CV-1058, 1991 WL 64857,
at *2 (N.D.N.Y. Apr. 25, 1991)). However, in order for the presumption to arise, “office practice
must be geared so as to ensure the likelihood that a notice of cancellation is always properly
addressed and mailed.” Tufano, 2006 WL 335693, at *4. The presumption of mailing can be
established “either by offering the testimony of the person who actually mailed the letter or
through indirect evidence, that is, by offering proof that mail is sent pursuant to office
procedures followed in the regular course of business.” DeSimone, 1991 WL 64857, at *2. As
the Second Circuit has repeatedly held, however, only a “properly addressed” piece of mail
placed in the care of the United States Postal Service is presumed to have been delivered.
Hoffenberg v. C.I.R., 905 F.2d 665, 666 (2d Cir. 1990) (emphasis added).
If the defendant successfully creates the presumption, the plaintiff must show some proof
that the regular office practice was not followed or was carelessly executed so that the
presumption that notice was mailed becomes unreasonable. Tufano, 2006 WL 335693, at *4
(quoting DeSimone, 1991 WL 64857, at *2).
b. Application to the Facts
MMC contends, on the facts of this case, that it is entitled to the presumption of receipt
despite the fact that the notification did not, according to Plaintiffs, correctly abbreviate
“Cornwall on Hudson.” Def. Mem. L. 4. In support of this argument, MMC claims that there is
no dispute that the COBRA notice generated for Plaintiffs correctly reflects their street address
and zip code, and that there is only one zip code for Cornwall on Hudson, New York. Id. at 5.
MMC’s argument is misplaced.
Courts in this Circuit have consistently found that in order for the presumption of receipt
to apply, the COBRA notification in question must have been “properly addressed.” Tufano,
2006 WL 335693, at *4 (emphasis added); see also DeSimone, 1991 WL 64857, at *2;
Hoffenberg, 905 F.2d at 666; In re Cunningham, 506 B.R. 334, 340 (Bankr. E.D.N.Y. 2014). It
is clear that the notification letter generated for Plaintiffs was improperly addressed because it
did not use the only “acceptable” abbreviation for Cornwall on Hudson. See note 8, supra.
While Defendant’s error may not have been particularly egregious—especially in light of the fact
that the notice included the correct street address and zip code for Cornwall on Hudson—MMC’s
argument that it is entitled to a presumption reserved for properly addressed mail must fail.
Even though the Court finds that MMC is not entitled to a presumption of receipt,
Defendant has demonstrated that it fulfilled its good faith obligation on the facts presented at
trial. MMC presented testimony from its Director of Benefits that established not only that it
maintains standard operating procedures for the mailing of COBRA notification letters, but also
that these procedures were followed in this case. Ms. Montalto’s testimony regarding the
procedures followed in Plaintiffs’ case was entirely consistent with her testimony regarding
MMC’s and WageWorks’ standard operating procedures. Moreover, Defendant produced its
copy of the notification letter WageWorks generated for Plaintiffs, which supports the
conclusion that such procedures were in fact followed here. Finally, the fact that Plaintiffs
received a letter that was not only addressed to “Cornwallonhuds,” but also did not have a zip
code (unlike the COBRA notification letter), is strong support for the conclusion that Defendant
used means reasonably calculated to reach Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs’ receipt of the 18 other pieces of
incorrectly addressed mail only reinforces this point.
Courts have routinely found that employers and plan administrators fulfill their duties
under COBRA on the basis of similar evidence. In Keegan v. Bloomingdale’s, Inc., 992 F. Supp.
974, 979-80 (N.D. Ill. 1998), for example, the court granted the employer and plan
administrator’s motion for summary judgment where the defendants introduced affidavits of
several employees explaining the standard automated procedure for generating COBRA letters
and also produced a copy of the notification letter sent to Plaintiffs. Similarly, in Myers v.
Carroll Independent Fuel Co., Civ. No. RDB 09-1633, 2011 WL 43085, at *10 (D. Md. Jan. 6,
2011), the court granted the plan administrator’s motion for summary judgment where the
procedures used would have caused a COBRA letter to be sent to the plaintiff, as well as
business records indicating that the letter was in fact sent to the plaintiff. And in Smith v. AT & T
Broadband Network Solutions, Inc., No. 01 C 2894, 2002 WL 370217, at *15 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 8,
2002), the court granted the employer’s motion for summary judgment where the employer
presented evidence that it was regular procedure to notify the terminated employee of his
COBRA rights and also submitted a computer-generated log of COBRA notices created at or
around the time of the mailing of the plaintiff’s notice. See also Gibbs v. A. Finkl & Sons Co.,
No. 00 C 4546, 2002 WL 318291, at *5 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 26, 2002) (granting employer’s motion
for summary judgment where its benefits administrator testified to the employer’s standard office
procedure regarding COBRA notification, confirmed that the employer’s computer records
indicated that a COBRA notice was generated, and stated that she remembered sending the
plaintiff’s notice in accordance with the standard procedures on or about the date in question);
Roberts v. Nat’l Health Corp., 963 F. Supp. 512, 515 (D.S.C. 1997), aff’d, 133 F.3d 916 (4th Cir.
1998) (granting defendant’s motion for summary judgment where the employer provided
evidence of an established procedure for COBRA notification, presented testimony that such
procedure was followed in the plaintiff’s case, and produced a COBRA report stamped with the
date the COBRA letter was mailed to the plaintiff). 10 In light of Ms. Montalto’s testimony and
By contrast, in Tufano, the court found in favor of the plaintiff former employee. 2006 WL 335693, at *2. There,
the employer truck company did not have an official COBRA plan administrator, and the office manager who was
the “contact person” for benefits issues testified that she had received informal training from insurance brokers
regarding COBRA procedures but was uncertain as to whether she or the company president was the plan
administrator. Id. The president also testified that the company did not have a written policy regarding COBRA
notices and instead relied on oral policies derived from informal conversations between him and the office manager.
Id. Additionally, the file copy of the COBRA notification letter allegedly sent to the plaintiff, which was introduced
the evidence presented at trial, the Court finds that MMC satisfied its good faith obligation to
notify Plaintiffs of their right to continue coverage under COBRA. 11
Finally, unlike in the cases on which Plaintiffs rely, MMC presented evidence of its
normal procedures for the mailing of the notification letters as well as support that such
procedures were in fact followed. In Crotty, for example, the court ruled that a plan
administrator was not entitled to a presumption of receipt where the administrator relied on an
audit report indicating that its computer system generated a notice letter. 455 F.3d at 831. The
administrator did not present any evidence that the letter was printed, placed in a properly
addressed envelope, or sent through the mail, however. Id.; see also DeSimone, 1991 WL
64857, at *3 (denying employer’s motion for summary judgment where the defendant employer
submitted an affidavit from its director of personnel which did not (i) reflect that she mailed the
COBRA notice or directed another employee to do so, or (ii) detail the defendant’s normal office
procedures for such mailings); Claudio-Gotay v. Becton Dickinson Caribe, Ltd., 375 F.3d 99,
104 (1st Cir. 2004), cert. denied, 543 U.S. 1120 (2005) (deciding that a genuine issue of material
fact existed as to whether the COBRA notice was timely mailed where the only evidence
presented at the summary judgment stage was a notification letter and “a note, not a sworn
affidavit” stating that the letter was timely mailed). 12
at trial, contained typographical errors, was not signed, and had no indication of having been mailed. Id. at *3. The
office manager testified that she did not remember mailing or typing the COBRA notice, and that while the file copy
looked like the COBRA notices she sent out, she was unable to identify the document as the letter allegedly sent to
the employee. Id.
While Plaintiffs argue that MMC should have established a notification system that uses only town names
recognized by the United States Postal Service, the Court will not hold Defendant to such a standard.
Plaintiffs’ reliance on Scott v. Suncoast Beverage Sales, Ltd., 295 F.3d 1223 (11th Cir. 2002), is also misplaced.
See Pls. Mem. L. 3. There, the court affirmed summary judgment for the plaintiff where the employer argued that it
satisfied its good faith obligation by providing its plan administrator with the necessary information and instructing
Plaintiffs’ claim for relief under COBRA is therefore DENIED.
c. Attorney’s Fees and Costs
In their post-trial submission, Plaintiffs request reasonable attorney’s fees and costs
pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g). Under Section 1132(g)(1), a court may “in its discretion” allow
reasonable attorney’s fee and costs “to either party” in a COBRA action. Plaintiffs argue that
they are entitled to attorney’s fees and costs because they are represented by a solo practitioner
who engaged in a “long three year battle . . . against a team of [MMC] attorneys.” Pls. Mem. L.
8. While this may be the case, Plaintiffs not demonstrated their entitlement to fees and costs
under the standard applicable for requests under COBRA, and also have not provided the
contemporaneous time records required to support such a request.
In Hardt v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Co., 560 U.S. 242, 243 (2010), the
Supreme Court ruled that a court may award attorney’s fees under Section 1132(g)(1) to
beneficiaries who have obtained “some degree of success on the merits.” See also Donachie v.
Liberty Life Assurance Co., 745 F.3d 41, 46 (2d Cir. 2014). The Court in Hardt clarified that a
claimant satisfies this requirement if the court “can fairly call the outcome of the litigation some
success on the merits without conducting a ‘lengthy inquir[y] into the question whether a
particular party’s success was ‘substantial’ or occurred on a ‘central issue.’” 560 U.S. at 255
(quoting Ruckelshaus v. Sierra Club, 463 U.S. 680, 688 n.9 (1983)). Even if Plaintiffs are
eligible for fees and costs by virtue of succeeding on the NYSHRL and NYLL claims, 13 the
the administrator to mail the notice to the plaintiff. Id. at 1230. The court decided that hiring an agent and
instructing him to send notice is alone insufficient; instead, there must be evidence that the agent sent the notice to
the plaintiff. Id. at 1231. Ms. Montalto’s testimony provided such evidence here.
See Scarangella v. Grp. Health, Inc., 731 F.3d 146, 153 (2d Cir. 2013) (stating that the conclusion that the
employer obtained some degree of success on the merits in ERISA action through the dismissal on summary
judgment of the plan insurer’s cross-claim for restitution was consistent with the Supreme Court’s direction in Hardt
Court must still deny their request.
The Second Circuit has set forth the following five factors for a court’s analysis of a
request for attorney’s fees under Section 1132(g)(1):
(1) the degree of the offending party’s culpability or bad faith, (2) the ability of the
offending party to satisfy an award of attorney’s fees, (3) whether an award of fees would
deter other persons from acting similarly under like circumstances, (4) the relative merits
of the parties’ positions, and (5) whether the action conferred a common benefit on a
group of plan participants.
Chambless v. Masters, Mates & Pilots Pension Plan, 815 F.2d 869, 871 (2d Cir. 1987). After
Hardt, consideration of the Chambless factors is now discretionary. L.I. Head Start Child Dev.
Servs., Inc. v. Econ. Opportunity Comm’n of Nassau Cnty., Inc., No. 00-CV-7394 (ADS), 2013
WL 6388633, at *6 (E.D.N.Y. Dec. 5, 2013); see also Toussan v. JJ Weiser, Inc., 648 F.3d 108,
110 (2d Cir. 2011) (quoting Hardt, 560 U.S. at 255); Donachie, 745 F.3d at 46 (stating that
although a court may, without further inquiry, award attorney’s fees to a plaintiff who has had
some degree of success on the merits, Hardt also made clear that courts retain discretion to
consider the five factors in its analysis of a request for fees).
Courts do not regard any one factor under Chambless as dispositive, and a plaintiff need
not satisfy all five factors in order to recover attorney’s fees and costs. See, e.g., Zervos v.
Verizon N.Y., Inc., No. 01 Civ. 0685 (GBD) (RLE), 2002 WL 31553484, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Nov.
13, 2002). Together, the factors take into account the relative merits of the parties’ positions and
require findings about bad faith. Chambless, 815 F.2d at 872. Here, aside from MMC’s ability
to satisfy a fees award, none of the above factors compel the conclusion that Plaintiffs are
entitled to attorney’s fees.
to engage in a limited review at this threshold stage in the attorney’s fees analysis, examining only whether a party
obtained “some success on some issue, independent of other claims in the case”).
As to the first factor, “‘[c]ulpability’ and ‘bad faith’ are distinct standards, and a district
court need not reach the question of bad faith in order to find the first Chambless factor
satisfied.” Klepeis v. J & R Equip., Inc., No. 10 Civ. 0363 (CS) (PED), 2012 WL 410539, at *7
(S.D.N.Y. Feb. 9, 2012). “This standard necessarily involves consideration of the merits of [the]
moving party’s case, and thus of the first and fourth . . . factors together.” Id. Plaintiffs have
failed to demonstrate bad faith on the part of MMC. To the contrary, MMC has demonstrated
that it acted in good faith and pursuant to standard office procedures in connection with the
COBRA claim. Cf. Leyda v. AlliedSignal, Inc., 322 F.3d 199, 210 (2d Cir. 2003) (affirming
denial of attorney’s fees where the employer made a good faith attempt to abide by the ERISA
disclosure requirement in releasing plan documents to employees). With respect to culpability,
courts have instructed that a party is only culpable when its conduct is intentional, blameworthy,
and results in the breach of a legal duty. See Perrera v. Gluck, No. 99 Civ. 1779 (RLE), 2004
WL 2793270, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 6, 2004). Despite the jury awards on the NYSHRL and
NYLL claims, the Court does not find that MMC acted with a “degree of . . . culpability” such
that would weigh in favor of fees. And success on the merits on the COBRA claim similarly
counsels against an award of fees.
Furthermore, Plaintiffs have not shown that an award of fees here would deter other
employers from acting as MMC has, or that there is any compelling reason to deter other
employers from acting in the same manner. Cf. Roganti v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 972 F. Supp. 2d
658, 675 (S.D.N.Y. 2013) (stating that although MetLife would likely be able to satisfy any fee
award, the court did not believe that such an award would deter other persons from acting
similarly under like circumstances). Finally, because Plaintiffs did not bring suit to benefit a
group of plan participants, the final factor cuts against an award of fees and costs. See Priority
Solutions, Inc. v. Cigna & Price Waterhouse Health Plan, No. 98 Civ. 4336 (MBM), 1999 WL
1057202, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 8, 1999). Accordingly, the Court does not find that Plaintiffs are
entitled to fees under the framework set forth in Chambless.
Additionally, it is a well-established rule in this Circuit that absent unusual
circumstances, attorneys are required to submit contemporaneous records with fee applications.
Mediterranean Shipping Co. (USA) v. Cargo Agents, Inc., No. 10 Civ. 5070 (THK), 2011 WL
6288422, at *7 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 15, 2011) (quoting Scott v. City of New York, 626 F.3d 130, 133
(2d Cir. 2010)); see also Prince of Peace Enters., Inc. v. Top Quality Food Mkt., LLC, No. 07
Civ. 349 (LAP) (FM), 2014 WL 793084, at *6 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 28, 2014) (stating that a party
seeking an award of attorney’s fees must submit contemporaneous time records indicating the
number of hours expended and the nature of the work done in order to enable a court to
determine the reasonableness of the request); Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of Am. v.
Queseria Fiesta, LLC, No. 12 Civ. 6059 (JPO), 2013 WL 1386965, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 5,
2013) (observing that a party seeking an award of attorney’s fees must support its request with
contemporaneous time records that show, for each attorney, the date, the hours expended, and the
nature of the work done). Here, Plaintiffs have similarly failed to provide any documentation
supporting their request for attorney’s fees, and have not requested either a specific amount in
fees or proffered a method for the calculation of such fees.
Plaintiffs’ request for attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to Section 1132(g)(1) is therefore
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