The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California holds that Plaintiff was entitled to recover fees paid for mediation services. Plaintiff sued to obtain disability benefits from her employer’s group insurance carrier. Plaintiff won at trial and the court awarded prevailing party attorney fees against Metropolitan. Metropolitan objected to the amount requested by Plaintiff’s attorney. Among the objections, Metropolitan argued that the fees paid to a mediator prior to trial are not among taxable expenses and should not be considered “attorneys’ fees” for the purpose of the award. The court disagreed, holding that “[t]hese costs, however, may be recoverable as attorneys’ fees if ‘it is “the prevailing practice in a given community” for lawyers to bill those costs separately from their hourly rates.’ [citation omitted] Courts within the Ninth Circuit have held ‘mediation costs, printing costs . . .’ are billed separately from lawyers’ hourly rates and thus recoverable in an ERISA action. [citation omitted].”

Leetzow v. Metropolitan Life Insurance, CV 15-2468- VAP (KKx), 2017 WL 1231719, (C.D. Cal. 3/3/2017).

Practice tip: Structure your engagement agreement to provide that all expenses, such as fees for pretrial mediation, should be considered “attorney fees” for the purpose of recovering such fees and expenses from the opposing party.


This case analysis was prepared by Christopher L. Blank, Esq., 4675 MacArthur Court, Suite 550, Newport Beach, CA 92660; (949) 250-4600; Cases, statutes or rules summarized or cited herein should not be relied upon without fully reading the case, statute or rule, and checking subsequent case history, etc.