« Law - "Crossing a Fine Line on Witness Coaching" | Main | Ind. Decisions - Steuben County Circuit Court Judge Allen Wheat recuses himself »

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides two Indiana cases today

In Dougherty, Sylvia v. Indiana Bell (SD Ind., Sarah Evans Barker, Judge), a 19-page opinion, Judge Manion concludes:

Given the discretionary terms of the plan, the correct standard to review the plan’s benefit decisions is the arbitrary-and-capricious standard. There is, moreover, no evidence of bias that would necessitate a less deferential review. Furthermore, the plan’s termination of accident benefits on Dougherty’s 1988 claim has rational support in the record; thus, under the arbitrary-and-capricious standard, we will not disturb that decision. Finally, Dougherty’s failure to exhaust administrative remedies bars consideration of her contention that the plan misclassified her 2000 and 2001 claims as sickness claims. The judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED.
Dechert, Edward v. The Cadle Co. (SD Ind., Sarah Evans Barker, Judge), a 3-page opinion, Judge Posner writes:
The main appeal challenges an award of attorneys’ fees in a protracted suit under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692 et seq. An earlier stage of the litigation occupied us in Dechert v. Cadle Co., 333 F.3d 801 (7th Cir. 2003). For present purposes, the only things worth noting are that the plaintiff sought, by way of relief for the alleged violation of the Act, only statutory damages of $1,000; that after obtaining $1,000 in compensation for the defendant’s failure to comply with a discovery order he abandoned his claim for statutory damages; but that the district court nevertheless awarded the plaintiff almost $60,000 in attorneys’ fees and court costs.

The plaintiff was entitled to an award of fees and costs only if his suit could be characterized as a “successful action to enforce the foregoing liability,” 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(3), meaning liability for either actual or statutory damages. * * * 2002). The plaintiff obtained neither. The $1,000 he received because of the defendant’s violation of a discovery order did not enforce any liability under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. * * * The defendant has not argued directly that the plaintiff was not a prevailing party in this litigation. But it argues that the plaintiff should receive a zero award of attorneys’ fees and costs because the suit accomplished nothing, and that is close enough to preserve the issue, which is anyway a pure, undebatable issue of law. We occasionally consider such issues even when they were not presented to the district judge. [citations omitted]

The defendant’s cross-appeal asks us to impose sanctions on the plaintiff for bringing this suit in bad faith. The denial of attorneys’ fees and costs is sanction enough.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 16, 2006 12:22 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions