United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Eastern Division
W. FLANAGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's attorney,
William L. Davis, III, Motion for attorney's fees. After
consideration of the parties' arguments and evidence,
this Court has decided to GRANT Plaintiff's
award of attorney's fees in Social Security cases is
governed by 42 U.S.C. § 406(b)(2) which provides that,
“the court may determine and allow as a part of its
judgment a reasonable fee for such representation, not in
excess of 25 percent of the total of the past-due benefits to
which the claimant is entitled by reason of such
judgment….” Due to the Plaintiff's attorney
legal representation, a favorable court ruling was obtained
for Claimant, and she was awarded a lump sum back payment for
social security disability benefits. The contract agreement
between the Claimant and her attorney provides for a
contingency fee of twenty-five (25%) percent of the lump sum
back benefits to be paid out of back benefits if she was
awarded as Social Security benefits.
fee contracts may be used as a basis by which attorney fees
are set for attorneys who successfully represent Social
Security Claimants in Federal Court. 42 U.S.C.A §
406(b)(2) serves as an independent check to assure the fees
are reasonable in a particular case Gisbrecht v.
Barnhart, 535 U.S. 789, 122 S.Ct. 1817 (2002).
Contingent fee contracts are unenforceable if the fee
arrangement exceeds twenty-five (25) percent of the past due
Gisbrecht v. Barnhill, contingent-fee agreements are
the primary means by which fees are set for successfully
representing Social Security benefits claimants in court.
District Courts merely reviews such arrangements to assure
they yield reasonable results in particular cases.
Id. Such arrangements are also limited by the
statutory maximum fee of 25 percent of the total past-due
benefits to which the claimant is entitle by reason of a
favorable judgment. 42 U.S.C. 406(b). As examples, a
contingent fee might be reduced if the attorney was
responsible for a delay in benefits, or if the benefits are
large in comparison to the amount of time counsel spent on
the case. Gisbrecht, 122 S.Ct. at 1828.
present case the attorney for Plaintiff instituted this
action after her attorney, at the Administrative Law Judge
level withdrew after the Administrative hearing. The
Government answered the complaint, alleging that there were
no errors by the Commissioner and the Plaintiff was not
disabled. The Plaintiff's attorney agreed to take the
case on a contingent-fee basis of 25 percent of back benefits
if the suit was won and charging no fee if it was lost.
Representing the Plaintiff required a substantial time
commitment to her case because Plaintiff's medical
records had been accumulating since 2008. The administrative
record was approximately 1016 pages. In total,
Plaintiff's attorney spent 115 hours working on her case.
attorney was not responsible for any delay in the receipt of
benefits. On the contrary, he worked on Plaintiff's case
to the exclusion of other work, he brought arguments before
this Court in a timely manner. The substantial size of the
award won in this case is matched by the long hours spent on
it. Plaintiffs attorney spent substantial time on the case
because of the long medical history associated with it
(medical records compiled over 10 years), the numerous times
Plaintiff had been denied benefits by the Commissioner at the
administrative law and appeal council level and the large
number of benefits at stake.
result his efforts, Plaintiffs attorney won an award for his
client of $165, 374.50. Of this award, $41, 343.63 was
withheld for payment of attorney's fees, representing 25
percent of the past due benefits awarded to Plaintiff, an
amount in accord with Plaintiffs contingent-fee agreement
with her attorney. Given the 115.00 hours spent on the case,
this represents a payment of just over $357.00 per hour which
is a low hourly rate, as reported by the Government in its
Response to this Motion. Upon considered review of the points
raised by the Government in its Response, the court
determines that these points do not warrant a determination
that the fee requested is unreasonable under the standard set
forth in Gisbrecht.
aforementioned reasons, this Court GRANTS Plaintiffs
attorney's motion for attorney fees in the amount of $41,
343.63, representing 25 percent of the past due benefits, the
amount due based upon the Plaintiffs contingent-fee
agreement. This fee will ...