As long as employers offer benefits to their employees, needs will exist for a proficient and strategic defense of ERISA claims. Clark Hill’s attorneys have substantial experience in ERISA litigation, helping fiduciaries, employers, individuals and service providers navigate these turbulent waters. Whether a single denial of benefits claim or a putative class action claiming discriminatory conduct or imprudent investments, we understand the issues and work with our clients to develop strategies for success. Our ERISA litigation attorneys are backed by our vibrant ERISA services practice, and have ERISA and other benefits litigation experience that includes handling:
- Company stock or “stock drop” litigation
- Health and welfare benefit litigation, including denial of benefits litigation (including disability, medical and/or severance pay plan benefits)
- Claims alleging breach of fiduciary duty
- Multiemployer plan litigation
- Enforcement of subrogation rights
- Priority disputes
- Pension plan litigation over alleged prohibited transactions
- Class actions
- ERISA appellate litigation
Our attorneys’ more specific experience includes:
- Serving as regional counsel for benefits litigation for a national insurer and service provider
- Obtaining dismissal based on a plan’s shortened period of limitations, upheld on appeal
- Litigation regarding multiple class action settlement agreements over medical and prescription drug benefits offered to retirees
- Defending a major consumer bank in a putative class action alleging violation of fiduciary duties relating to available investments
- Defending a major retailer both at the trial court and appellate level in ERISA class actions and age discrimination cases arising from severance payments made as part of a reorganization and transition plan
- Defending plan sponsors and service providers in litigation over complex benefit denials.
- Defending a welfare benefits consultant against a $20 million ERISA claim brought by a Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangement (“MEWA”) in relation to alleged breach of fiduciary duty that led to the plan’s collapse; after a two month trial, achieving a favorable settlement
- Significant experience in defeating class action claims as well as pursuing and defending ERISA, RICO and other business tort claims
- Successfully defending plan sponsors and employee benefit plans against claims for benefits, breach of fiduciary duty claims, discrimination claims, claims in divorce proceedings, state law claims, class action claims and claims in bankruptcy
- Successfully recouping benefit overpayments in litigation brought on behalf of several plans
- Obtaining a favorable judgment in an appeal related to a claim for disability retirement benefits provided under a collectively-bargained plan
For more information on our Employee Benefits/ERISA Services, click here.
Mark McInerney and Ellen Hoeppner recently obtained dismissal of a contentious lawsuit filed against Clark Hill’s client United States Steel. In October 2014, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against U. S. Steel, alleging disability discrimination, interference under the Family and Medical Leave Act, and workers’ compensation retaliation. The plaintiff’s claims all stemmed from a workplace injury plaintiff suffered in July 2013, in which the tip of his finger was caught in a machine and nearly severed. Over the next two days, the plaintiff twice failed to appear at U. S. Steel Plant Medical for evaluation as directed, and misrepresented his medical condition by telling Plant Medical personnel that his finger had to be surgically “cut off” due to infection. When the true facts came to light, U. S. Steel determined the plaintiff’s misconduct warranted termination.
These relatively straightforward facts, however, were made very complicated by a zealous plaintiff’s attorney, who propounded a theory of wide-spread discrimination against disabled employees because such employees posed a liability risk to the company for the purposes of workers compensation and OSHA reporting. Mark and Ellen filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, carefully separating the unsupported theories from the undisputed facts. The Court dispensed with oral argument, and on the strength of the briefs, United States District Judge Linda Parker recognized the theory for what it was, and dismissed the plaintiff’s case.
Defended hospital before West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals on issues of first impression related to both federal and state discrimination claims.
Litigated multi-million dollar discrimination lawsuits involving known government contractor
Member of team assisting with employment litigation for significant public university
Litigated issues of first impression for national franchisor on aiding/abetting and agency theories in sexual harassment case
Represented major hotel before the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on issues relating to wrongful discharge and federal labor relations
Sought injunctive relief for international manufacturing company to abate union strike activity
Paul Coughenour, Brian Shekell, Jeff Bell, Steve Holmes, and Pamela Bright recently obtained an ex parte temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction prohibiting two former employees of Clark Hill’s client from violating the restrictive covenants contained in their employment agreements and utilizing our client’s confidential information. To obtain the seldom granted ex parte temporary restraining order, Paul and Brian obtained affidavits from several of our client’s employees stating that the former employees had boasted about stealing our client’s customer lists, leads, and employees to use in a competing insurance agency they were forming. During the hearing on Plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction, Paul and Brian established that before and after the former employees resigned, they accessed our client’s computer database and stole confidential information that was being used to compete against our client. After hearing testimony from eight witnesses, the judge granted all of the relief requested in Clark Hill’s motion for a preliminary injunction, stating that this was a “clear case” of the defendants breaching the terms of the restrictive covenants contained in their employment agreements.
Represented a law enforcement agency against claims of retaliation by a former high-ranking officer.
Represented a national healthcare company against a class action claim under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Represented a mortgage broker against allegations of misappropriating trade secrets, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of a restrictive covenant regarding confidential information.
Represented a national security staffing company against claims of discrimination and retaliation.
Represented a regional transportation authority against discrimination claims by current and former employees based on race and gender.
Represented a state-wide agency against claims that it took adverse employment actions against current and former employees because of their political affiliation.
Represented a multiple high-level executives in the negotiation of severance packages.
Represented an engineering firm accused of recruiting employees away from a competitor.
Represented a corporate officer of a developmental stage bio-pharmaceutical company in a contract dispute.
Represented a corporate officer of a leading pharmaceutical company specializing in the development and manufacturing of pharmaceutical products in an employment contract dispute.
Represented a regional telecommunications company against allegations of misappropriating trade secrets.
Represented a former corporate executive sued by the company’s bankruptcy trustees and lenders, as well as a parallel criminal investigation into allegations of bank fraud.
Represented a national hospital emergency department staffing company accused of violating federal fraud statutes.
Represented a state-wide agency and several executives accused of violating Pennsylvania's whistleblower statute by terminating an employee for reporting alleged wrongdoing and waste related to the awarding of lucrative contracts.
Represented a former COO against claims that he violated the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and breached his fiduciary duties to his former company by personally enriching himself with corporate funds.
Paul Coughenour, Ellen Hoeppner, Jeff Bell and Steven Holmes persuaded the Michigan Court of Appeals to reverse a trial court’s denial of their summary disposition motion on a retaliation claim under the Michigan Civil Rights Act. Clark Hill obtained summary disposition of the plaintiff’s sexual harassment claim from the trial court, but was forced to file an application for leave to appeal to avoid an expensive and difficult trial on plaintiff’s claim that she was fired for reporting sexual harassment. After leave to appeal was granted, with one dissenting vote, oral arguments were made last week to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that plaintiff had not opposed a violation of the Act by objecting to offensive comments by her coworkers, or by sending her supervisor an email complaining that there was “a lot of unacceptable/inappropriate behavior that goes on” at the workplace. It ordered the case remanded for entry of judgment on plaintiff’s retaliation claim in favor of Clark Hill’s clients.
Litigate various restrictive clauses in employment agreements, confidentiality agreements and claims based on misappropriation of trade secrets.
Conduct investigations and make recommendations to clients related to claims of gender discrimination and sexual harassment.
Draft and revise employee handbooks to comply with requirements of federal and state anti-discrimination laws.
Defend employers against retaliation and discrimination claims by current and former employees based on race, gender, disability and religion.
In other federal court employment litigation,the Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of a national retailer in a case involving malicious prosecution and false arrest claims brought by a former data analyst who, immediately prior to his resignation, deleted a large number of computer files from the company’s computer systems.
Prevailed on behalf of a national retailer in complex trial court and appellate litigation involving employment tort claims arising from an employee's computer fraud.
Obtained summary judgment that was affirmed by the Seventh Circuit in favor of a large telecommunications company client, in a case involving federal and state law claims of disability discrimination, failure to accommodate, and retaliatory discharge.
Counseled large and mid-sized corporations and negotiated the departures of top-level corporate executives.
Drafted and negotiated numerous employment agreements and executive compensation plans for incoming and current CEOs and C-Suite executives of mid- and large-sized private and public companies and non-profit organizations.
In a commercial defamation action against a recycling certification organization, prevailed in federal district court and in the Seventh Circuit on attempts to defeat the action based on state anti-SLAPP statutes and Constitutional grounds.
In an unfair labor practice action brought by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against a locomotive manufacturer, persuaded a federal district court in Iowa to deny the NLRB’s petition for interim reinstatement and injunctive relief.
In federal litigation involving a Chicago-area bank, the court granted motion to dismiss a defamation claim based on a final written warning and an alleged wrongful termination involving a bank executive.
In a wage and hour class and collective action filed against a Chicagoland restaurant chain, a federal district court granted a motion to dismiss and dismissed claims for failure to pay tipped employees proper overtime and violations of the Illinois Wage Payment and Collections Act.
In Illinois state court litigation, obtained the dismissal of shareholder derivative claims as well as claims seeking declaratory judgment for breach of employment agreements and improper termination of the company president of a large retail telephone distributor.
Nicole Paterson was successful in winning a grievance arbitration brought by the SEIU Healthcare Michigan against our client, a County Medical Care Facility.
With assistance from Kristi Gauthier, Ed Hammond, Peter Domas and Bishop Bartoni, Kevin Hendrick and Nicole Tersigni successfully defended an insurance priority dispute, resulting in an extremely favorable judgment for firm client, United States Steel Corporation’s ERISA-governed Retiree Benefits Plan. U. S. Steel Retirement Plan was joined as a third-party defendant in a pending dispute by a No-Fault Automobile Insurance carrier, which had been sued by a healthcare service provider for unpaid patient attendant care fees. The No-Fault Carrier claimed that the obligation to pay for these services under Michigan No-Fault law fell to U. S. Steel Retirement Plan, which covered the patient (who was a former U. S. Steel employee). Ed, Bishop, Kristi and Peter lent their expertise to Kevin and Nicole in interpreting alleged conflicting insurance priority provisions and explanations of benefits. Kevin and Nicole crafted a legal argument that ultimately led to summary disposition in favor of U.S. Steel Plan, and against the No-Fault carrier, saving U.S. Steel Plan from payment of the healthcare fees, and also reimbursing U.S. Steel Plan for benefits it had earlier paid by mistake, out of priority. As the No-Fault carrier had rejected the Case Evaluation award prior to the filing of cross motions for summary disposition, it also appears that attorney fees are recoverable for our client. Kristi and Ed on Employee Benefit law, Bishop on Michigan No-Fault law, and Pete on Health Care issues, proved to be unbeatable resources.
Successfully represented various employers against discrimination, retaliation, and harassment lawsuits.
Provides ongoing employment counseling to variety of clients, including a national staffing company, on issues such as the WARN Act, state and federal regulatory compliance, and employee policies and procedures.
ERISA Litigation - Represented a national health plan administrator against ERISA claims for breach of fiduciary duty in the administration of a major airline’s national employees’ self-insured health care plans. After extensive pretrial discovery and motions practice, participated in a one day minitrial before a federal judge and senior executives of client health plan administrator and airline which led to reasonable compromise settlement.
Employment Litigation - Successfully defended sexual harassment and wrongful discharge claims against corporate employers.
Employment Litigation - Represented clients before federal EEOC and Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.