Plaintiff brought a claim for an increase in his disability benefits. The claim was denied, and attorneys fees were assessed against the plaintiff. In addition, the court granted an equitable set-off against future benefits to ensure payment of the attorneys’ fees. The Third Circuit reversed. “While it may be argued that plan participants, like Martorana, who bring suits which are ultimately found to be frivolous, deserve the same treatment as fiduciaries who breach a duty to the Plan and ‘loot’ the fund, we are not persuaded. For, unlike a deliberate looter, a plan participant who, in earnest, but in error (and perhaps obstinately) seeks to enforce or clarify plan rights he believes he has, does not act with complete disregard for the well-being of the very fund which he is supposed to help manage. The fact that ERISA allows for the award of attorney’s fees to the prevailing party at the discretion of the court in suits such as the one brought by Martorana is generally sufficient, we believe, to prevent plaintiffs from bringing suits which they know or strongly suspect to be without merit. There is no need to increase deterrence by running afoul of the statutory prohibition and assessing fees against the pension benefits of such participants.” See Martorana v. Board of Trustees, Steamfitters, Local 420, 404 F.3d 797, 804 (3rd Cir. 2005).
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