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Shah v. Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey

United States District Court, D. New Jersey, Camden Vicinage

September 13, 2018

RAHUL SHAH, MD, on assignment of Marjorie M., Plaintiff,
v.
HORIZON BLUE CROSS BLUE SHIELD OF NEW JERSEY, Defendant.

          Samuel S. Saltman Michael Gottlieb Callagy Law PC Attorneys for Plaintiff

          Michael E. Holzapfel Becker LLC Attorney for Defendant

          OPINION

          RENEE MARIE BUMB UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This is one of seventeen ERISA suits filed in this District wherein Plaintiff Dr. Rahul Shah ("Dr. Shah"), as assignee of his patients, has sought to recover additional health insurance payments allegedly due under each patient's health insurance plan. The Court previously granted summary judgment to Defendant, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey ("Horizon"), see Shah v. Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, 2018 WL 801584 (D.N.J. Feb. 9, 2018). Horizon, as the successful party in this suit, presently moves for an award of attorney's fees pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 54 and 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(1). For the reasons stated herein, the Court denies the motion but expects that, in light of several adverse decisions from Courts within this District, Plaintiff will not continue his pattern of filing very similar complaints.

         I. RELEVANT FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The facts and procedural history of this suit are fully set forth in the Court's Opinions adjudicating Horizon's Motion to Dismiss, Shah v. Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, 2016 WL 4499551 (D.N.J. Aug. 25, 2016), and Horizon's Motion for Summary Judgment, Shah v. Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, 2018 WL 801584 (D.N.J. Feb. 9, 2018).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         "A claim for attorney's fees and related nontaxable expenses must be made by motion[.]" Fed. R. Civ. 54(d)(2)(A). Fee shifting is available in this ERISA case pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(1), which provides, "[i]n any action under this subchapter . . . by a participant, beneficiary, or fiduciary, the court in its discretion may allow a reasonable attorney's fee and costs of action to either party."

         When a "party has achieved success on the merits[1], . . . the district court [has] discretion as to whether to award fees in light of the familiar Ursic factors, which include:

(1) the offending parties' culpability or bad faith;
(2) the ability of the offending parties to satisfy an award of attorneys' fees;
(3) the deterrent effect of an award of attorneys' fees against the offending parties;
(4) the benefit conferred on members of the [ERISA] plan as a ...

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