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Employee Benefits Litigation

Since the beginning of their legal careers, the attorneys at HJRF have been litigating matters involving fiduciary obligations under ERISA, as well as litigation involving benefit claims, subrogation claims, ESOP claims, Section 510 claims, age and sex discrimination claims, retiree health claims, executive compensation claims, and severance claims. We have successfully represented clients before the United States Supreme Court (Yates v. Hendon, 541 U.S. 1 (2004)), the Second, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeal, and U.S. District Courts throughout the country. Below are representative samples of cases HJRF has litigated:

FIDUCIARY LITIGATION

Riley v. Barringer, Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-00007 (W.D. VA 2018). Action brought against plan participant and fiduciary for embezzlement.

United States Secretary of Labor v. WH Administrators, et al, No. 1:18-cv-01290 (D. Md. 2018). DOL action against service provider that offered a welfare arrangement to employers that wanted to sponsor stand-alone self-funded welfare plans. Complaint alleges numerous violations of ERISA’s fiduciary standards of conduct and prohibited transaction.

Delta Materials v. WHA, No. 2:18-cv-02367 (W.D. TN 2018). Action brought by participants against plan fiduciary alleging breaches of fiduciary duties regarding health plan.

TN Tractor v. WHA, No. 1:17-cv-02829 (W.D. TN 2017). Class action brought by participants against plan fiduciary alleging breaches of fiduciary duties.

United States Secretary of Labor v. Sypris Solutions 401(k) Merged Retirement Savings Plan, No. 3:17-cv-784 (W.D. Ky. 2018). DOL action alleging Plan Administrator improperly interpreted plan provision and violated ERISA when it used assets in forfeiture fund to pay for matching contributions rather than to pay plan expenses.

Chavez v. Fringe Benefit Group, et al, No. 1:17-cv-659 (W.D. Tex. 2017). Class action involving allegations of payment of excessive fees to welfare and pension service provider. Motions to dismiss Complaint granted in part and denied in part.

United States Secretary of Labor v. Specialty Hospital of Washington, LLC, Case No. 17-01691 (D. DC 2017). Represented Board of Directors of hospital that sponsored self-funded health and welfare plan that became insolvent due to company bankruptcy.

Smith v. Regional Transit Authority, 827 F.3d 412 (5th 2016). Defended retiree health claim regarding application of governmental plan exemption under ERISA.

Nicholson v. Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, No. 16-cv-258 (E.D. La. 2016). Claim that pension plan does not qualify for the church plan exemption to ERISA.

Carver v. Presence Health Network, No. 15-cv-2905 (N.D. Ill. 2015). Claim that pension plan does not qualify for the church plan exemption to ERISA.

Hans v. Tharaldson, 2011 WL 7179644 (D. N.D. Oct. 31, 2011). Defended seller/ESOP trustee and obtained summary judgment ruling on claim ESOP paid too much for $1 billion hotel company.

BENEFIT CLAIMS LITIGATION

Knox County v. Knox County Retirement and Pension Board, all Sheriff Deputies in the Uniformed Officers Pension Plan (Knox County Chancery Court – Case No. 195629-1; 194873-1; 195683-1, 2018). Class action against sheriff deputies concerning how the Knox County Retirement and Pension Board calculated retirement benefits.

Green v. Publicis Benefits Connection Health & Group Benefits Program, No. 17-cv-1808 (N.D. Ill. 2017). Claim for health benefits.
Humphrey v. United Way of Texas Gulf, No. 11-20617 (5th Cir. 2011). Defended against claim that plan conversion entitled class to enhanced benefits.

Allen v. Honeywell, 698 F. Supp. 2d 1197 (D. Ariz. 2010). Retained and successfully reversed $300 million judgment that plan terms obligated company to provide enhanced “minimum benefits”.

Brown v. Owens Corning, 622 F.3d 564 (6th Cir. 2010). Defended plan trustee in class action on fiduciary claim challenging 401(k) plan investments in employer stock. Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal based on adoption of broad rule on accrual of statute of limitations defense.

Raetsch v. Lucent, 2006 WL 3068648 (D.N.J. Oct. 27, 2006). Defended company against claim that tax code imposed retiree healthcare requirements on participants.

Stewart v. KHD Deutz, 980 F.2d 698 (11th Cir. 1993) & 75 F.3d 1522 (11th Cir. 1996). Class action claiming that collective bargaining agreement created vested rights to retiree health benefits.

 EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION LITIGATION

Ronald O. Black v. Bank of Oak Ridge (M.D. N.C., Case No. 1:17-cv-1006). Represented executive in claim for benefits under various nonqualified plans.

Wychocki v. FSC, et. al., Case No. 1:10CV02954 (N.D. Ill. 2010). Defended executive before IRS against claim for tax assessment, which resulted in dismissal of civil litigation seeking over $3 million in clawback from executive.

The Morrison Restaurant, Inc. Retirement Plan, et al., v. Old Mutual Financial Network Securities, Inc., Case No. 3:08-CV-501. Represented nonqualified deferred compensation plan against insurance company and reached a settlement to collect on annuities owed to the plan.

In re: Piccadilly Cafeterias, Inc., Case No. 03-27976-BKC-RBR. Represented management employees regarding their qualified and nonqualified pensions.

Gray v T.V. Guide et. al. 77 Fed. Appx. 507 (11th Cir. 2003). Defended company against claim executive owed over $8,000,000 in compensation because of alleged duty to create a top hat plan.

Garratt v. Knowles, 245 F.3d 941 (7th Cir. 2001). Defended company against claim for approximately $1.5 million in supplemental retirement benefits tied to change in control of company.

 PENSION CLAIMS AND AGE DISCRIMINATION BENEFITS LITIGATION

Skelly v. Insurance Services Office, No. 1:12-cv-08889-AKH (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 16, 2014) & 599 Fed. Apx. 409, 60 EBC 2939 (2nd April 27, 2015). Class action claiming ERISA violations related to cutback pension benefits in plan conversion.

Allen v. Honeywell, 698 F. Supp. 2d 1197 (D. Ariz. 2010). Defended company and plan against $1 billion class claims that plan change cutback benefits and that plan terms provided richer benefits.

INDEPENDENT FIDUCIARY SETTLEMENT LITIGATION

Attorneys at HJRF also have experience in ERISA Litigation as an independent settlement fiduciary. An independent fiduciary is responsible for determining the reasonableness of the settlement and determines whether the settlement satisfies the conditions of Prohibited Transaction Exemption 2003-39 (“PTE 2003-39”), including negotiating any changes necessary to protect the interests of the Plans and their participants.

As an independent fiduciary, the primary responsibility is to ascertain the strength of the claims brought in the litigation, the potential recovery in the case, and the scope of the release in exchange for the settlement, as well as the reasonableness of fees paid to claimants’ legal counsel. As part of the duties, a report is prepared for the parties and the court addressing these issues.

Recently, one of our attorneys was appointed as an independent fiduciary to review and approve a class settlement in one of the most significant ERISA class action suits that had been litigated before the U.S. Supreme Court prior to resolution.