Class Action Defense - ERISA

Overview

In recent years, the number of class actions brought against benefit plans, employer plan sponsors, and fiduciaries over alleged violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) has surged. Having navigated the ins and outs of ERISA’s provisions for decades, our attorneys have a deep understanding of this complex and ever-evolving statute.

Collaborating with attorneys on our employment and benefits teams who have strong working knowledge of both ERISA and the Affordable Care Act, we develop and execute solid defense strategies by using our decades of class action procedural experience.

With a strong track record of defending clients on issues ranging from misclassification issues, Pension Benefit Gauranty Corporation litigation and retiree health insurance benefits to stock drop cases, cash balance cases and claims alleging imprudent plan investments, we are well-equipped to represent clients in high-stakes litigation where hundreds of millions of dollars are on the line.

Select Experience

  • Obtained dismissal based on standing grounds in an ERISA “stock drop” case involving a company stock fund that lost hundreds of millions of dollars over a two-year period. The decision—which significantly changed the way in which damages may be measured in these types of cases—was affirmed by the Sixth Circuit on appeal.
  • Obtained judgment in favor of a technology manufacturing company after defending it through trial and subsequent appeal in a case in which plaintiffs brought suit on behalf of salaried and hourly employees and asserted claims under ERISA, alleging entitlement to retiree health insurance benefits arising out of a plant that had been sold years before. The action was one of very few in this arena that have been tried and won by the defense.
  • Obtained summary judgment in favor of Michelin North America and its operating company, the B.F. Goodrich Tire Company, in district court in a putative class action challenging the substantial modification of retiree medical benefits. The decision was subsequently affirmed by the Sixth Circuit and an attempt by plaintiffs to appeal to the United States Supreme Court was denied.
  • Obtained dismissal of class action against Electronic Data Systems, in which the plaintiffs sought class certification of claims under ERISA under the theory that if overtime pay remained unpaid, the plaintiffs’ pension and 401(k) accounts were adversely affected and that the failure to properly classify employees for overtime purposes amounted to a breach of fiduciary duty.
  • Obtained summary judgment on behalf of former plan trustee of an Employee Stock Ownership Plan and Trust relating to compensation agreement that trustee had entered into with family member prior to sale of company to employees.
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Professionals

Name Title Office Email
Partner Cleveland
Partner Cleveland
Partner Cleveland
Partner Denver
Partner Cleveland
Partner Columbus
Partner Cleveland
Partner Columbus
Partner Cleveland
Partner Cleveland
Partner Columbus
Partner Cleveland
Partner Cleveland
Partner Cleveland

Experience

  • Obtained dismissal based on standing grounds in an ERISA “stock drop” case involving a company stock fund that lost hundreds of millions of dollars over a two-year period. The decision—which significantly changed the way in which damages may be measured in these types of cases—was affirmed by the Sixth Circuit on appeal.
  • Obtained judgment in favor of a technology manufacturing company after defending it through trial and subsequent appeal in a case in which plaintiffs brought suit on behalf of salaried and hourly employees and asserted claims under ERISA, alleging entitlement to retiree health insurance benefits arising out of a plant that had been sold years before. The action was one of very few in this arena that have been tried and won by the defense.
  • Obtained summary judgment in favor of Michelin North America and its operating company, the B.F. Goodrich Tire Company, in district court in a putative class action challenging the substantial modification of retiree medical benefits. The decision was subsequently affirmed by the Sixth Circuit and an attempt by plaintiffs to appeal to the United States Supreme Court was denied.
  • Obtained dismissal of class action against Electronic Data Systems, in which the plaintiffs sought class certification of claims under ERISA under the theory that if overtime pay remained unpaid, the plaintiffs’ pension and 401(k) accounts were adversely affected and that the failure to properly classify employees for overtime purposes amounted to a breach of fiduciary duty.
  • Obtained summary judgment on behalf of former plan trustee of an Employee Stock Ownership Plan and Trust relating to compensation agreement that trustee had entered into with family member prior to sale of company to employees.

Recognition

  • Chambers USA: Litigation
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Ohio) – Band 2 (2019)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Colorado) – Recognized (2019)
    • Retail: National – Recognized (2019)
  • Chambers USA:
    • Paul Karlsgodt – Litigation: General Commercial (Colorado), Band 4 (2019)
    • Daniel Warren – Litigation: General Commercial (Ohio), Band 2 (2019)
    • Ernest Vargo – Litigation: General Commercial (Ohio), Band 4 (2019)
  • Law360: Class Action "Practice Group of the Year" (2014)
  • LA Daily Journal: Top Appellate Reversals of 2014
  • Best Lawyers in America® 2018:
    • Rodger Eckelberry
    • Joseph Ezzie
    • Mark Johnson
    • Richard Knoth
    • Jerry Linscott
    • George Tzanetopoulos
    • Ernest Vargo
    • Daniel Warren
  • Corporate Counsel® magazine guide to in-house law departments: "Go-to Law Firm" for litigation.
  • Recognized as one of the top law firms for client service, BakerHostetler was named to the 2019 BTI Client Service 30 for the fifth consecutive year.

News

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In The Blogs

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Class Action Lawsuit Defense
Standing in Uncertainty: Spokeo Three Years Later
By Brittany N. Lockyer, Kenneth G. Prabucki
May 21, 2019
In 2016, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Spokeo Inc. v. Robins, holding that even when Congress has granted parties a statutory right, a procedural violation of that right will not by itself satisfy the “concrete harm” requirement...
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Class Action Lawsuit Defense
Supreme Court: Express Consent Required for Class Arbitration
May 14, 2019
On April 24, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an ambiguous arbitration agreement does not provide a sufficient basis to conclude that parties agreed to class arbitration. In Lamps Plus, Inc. v. Varela, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to...
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Class Action Lawsuit Defense
BakerHostetler Q1 2019 Insurance Class Action Update
April 25, 2019
The new year began with dramatic growth in vehicle total loss class actions over payment of sales tax and title transfer and registration fees, interpretations of the filed rate doctrine, and further activity in labor depreciation class...
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Class Action Lawsuit Defense
Caution: Precertification Communications with Absent Class Members
March 28, 2019
Are absent members of an uncertified class or Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) collective action “parties” and thus “represented” by plaintiff’s counsel? If so, is defense counsel prohibited from speaking with absent class members? At first...
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Class Action Lawsuit Defense
Trial Courts Wrestle with Expert Testimony and Daubert at Class Certification
By William DeVinney
March 19, 2019
Expert testimony plays a critical role in nearly all putative class actions, including at the class certification stage where parties rely on expert evidence to address the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. The Supreme...
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