The opinion of the court was delivered by: LEONARD D. WEXLER
Plaintiff/counterclaim defendant, Irwin Plotkin ("Plotkin"), brought the above-referenced action against defendant/counterclaim plaintiff, Bearings Limited ("Bearings"), as well as defendants, John Bauer ("Bauer"), Michelle Saunders, Jeff D. Feldman, and Martin Granowitz (collectively "defendants"), alleging, inter alia, violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1024(b)(4) and 3211(a)(1)(B). On November 21, 1991, this Court granted defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's ERISA claims and declined to hear the state court claims and counterclaims brought by both Plotkin and Bearings. Now before the Court is Bearings' application for attorney's fees in the amount of $ 16,059.75, and $ 328.12 in costs and disbursements pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(1). For the reasons that follow, the application is denied.
On July 6, 1990, Bearings, a ball and roller bearings importer/exporter, terminated Plotkin, who for fifteen years had been an employee of that company.
On February 7, 1991, Plotkin filed the action upon which this motion is based alleging, inter alia, a violation of 29 U.S.C. § 1024(b)(4).
Specifically, he contended that defendants had failed to respond within the required thirty day period to written requests for information about Bearing's pension plan made to Bauer, on May 3 and 21, 1990, two months prior to Plotkin's termination. Plotkin admitted to receiving the information on February 20, 1991, approximately ten months after he made the request. Plotkin asked the Court to exercise its discretion to impose upon defendants, pursuant to § 1132(c)(1)(B),
a $ 100 per day penalty commencing June 1, 1990.
The Court dismissed without prejudice Plotkin's § 1024(b)(4) claim after determining that he had failed to allege that he was harmed or otherwise prejudiced by the delay in receiving the information. Moreover, the Court found that he had not asserted that defendants acted in bad faith or that the delay was intentional. Thus, the Court declined to impose a penalty under 29 U.S.C. § 1132(c)(1)(B).
Bearings asks this Court to exercise its discretion to award attorney's fees and costs as provided by 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(1); see also Fase v. Seafarers Welfare and Pension Fund, 589 F.2d 112, 116 (2d Cir. 1978). In deciding whether a party is entitled to attorney's fees under that section, the Court must consider five factors. They are:
(1) the degree of the offending party's culpability or bad faith, (2) the ability of the offending party to satisfy an award of attorney's fees, (3) whether an award of fees would deter others from acting similarly under like circumstances, (4) the relative merits of the paries' positions and (5) whether the action sought to confer a common benefit on a group of pension plan participants.
Miles v. New York State Teamsters Conference, Etc., 698 F.2d 593, 602 n.9 (2d Cir.) (citing Ford v. New York Cent. Teamsters Pension Fund, 506 F. Supp. 180, 183 (W.D.N.Y. 1980), aff'd, 642 F.2d 664 (2d Cir. 1981)), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 829, 78 L. Ed. 2d 108, 104 S. Ct. 105 (1983); see also Carpenters Southern Admin. Corp. v. Russell, 726 F.2d 1410, 1415 (9th Cir. 1984); Hummell v. S.E. Rykoff & Co., 634 F.2d 446, 454 (9th Cir. 1980). It is to be noted that none of these factors is dispositive and some may not be applicable to a particular case. Russell, 726 F.2d at 1416 (citation omitted).
Initially, Bearings argues that plaintiff's failure to allege harm or prejudice in the underlying action demonstrates bad faith in commencing the underlying action. The Court does not agree. Although the absence of an allegation of harm convinced this Court to dismiss the action, such a finding does not equate with a showing of bad faith on plaintiff's part.
Bearings also claims that plaintiff acted in bad faith in asking this Court to impose statutory penalties. Bearings states that "even after plaintiff was placed on notice that, under well-settled law in the Eastern District, he had failed to aver prejudice, he continued the lawsuit by engaging in motion practice and discovery." Affirmation of Steven A. Feldman in Support of Application for Attorney's Fees at p.6. As support, Bearings cites Chambers v. European Amer. Bank and Trust Co., 601 F. Supp. 630, 638-39 (E.D.N.Y. 1985), upon which this Court relied in declining to impose penalties on plaintiff. Although the Court embraced the reasoning set forth in Chambers, it certainly was not bound to follow it.
Similarly, although the Court dismissed plaintiff's § 1132(a)(1)(B) claim with prejudice after determining that plaintiff had received the information he requested prior to filing this action, there is no indication in the record that the claim was made in bad faith. The record reveals that although plaintiff received the information prior to the commencement of the action, it was not provided to him in a timely manner as required by statute. See 29 U.S.C. § ll32(c)(1)(B). Moreover, it would be manifestly unfair to imply bad faith on plaintiff's part from the ...