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UBS Worker Eligible for Attorneys’ Fees in Disability Appeal

May 20, 2022, 7:04 PM

A UBS Financial Services employee who sued Aetna Life Insurance Co. for disability benefits and got his claim remanded to the insurer for a second look is eligible for attorneys’ fees under ERISA, the Ninth Circuit ruled Friday.

The court order remanding Michael Woolsey’s claim to Aetna included a determination that Aetna’s administrative process was “significantly deficient,” and it gave Woolsey “a renewed opportunity to secure benefits,” the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said. This qualifies as “some success on the merits” and makes Woolsey eligible for an award of attorneys’ fees under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the court said.

The appeals court cautioned that its ruling doesn’t mean that any remand order, “without more,” is sufficient for an award of attorneys’ fees under ERISA. But this one is, because the district court completed a substantive review of Woolsey’s claims and concluded that Aetna failed to fulfill its duties under the statute, the court said.

Woolsey, a financial adviser for UBS, sought disability benefits in 2016 on account of debilitating migraine headaches and related depression.

The opinion was issued by Judges Michael Daly Hawkins, Richard A. Paez, and Paul J. Watford.

Kantor & Kantor LLP and Scott E. Davis PC represent Woolsey. Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart PC represents Aetna.

The case is Woolsey v. Aetna Life Ins. Co., 9th Cir., No. 20-16885, unpublished 5/20/22.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jacklyn Wille in Washington at jwille@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Patrick L. Gregory at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com