Employee Benefits Litigation

Since 1974, when Congress enacted the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (commonly known as ERISA), Calfee lawyers have counseled clients regarding various related litigation issues. Because ERISA governs myriad types of employee benefit plans including pension, profit sharing, 401k, ESOP, life insurance, long and short term disability, medical expense reimbursement, healthcare, and severance, our lawyers’ experiences in this regard are diverse. We have represented plan sponsors and administrators, third party administrators, claims administrators, plan fiduciaries, trustees, participants, beneficiaries and non-fiduciary plan service providers in connection with ERISA litigation matters. Our services have included the prosecution and defense of claims for breach of ERISA fiduciary duties, benefit denial claims, prohibited transaction claims, subrogation claims and ERISA Section 510 discrimination claims. We have handled ERISA matters in federal and state courts, as well as with respect to Department of Labor investigations and Internal Revenue Service proceedings.

Given ERISA’s comprehensive and constantly evolving nature, it is often unclear whether and how ERISA applies to a particular situation. Because the rules and procedures applicable to litigation under ERISA frequently differ from those applicable to non-ERISA litigation (and many times in an advantageous way for a plan sponsor or fiduciary), it is important for any business or person that is involved with an employee benefit plan to understand ERISA’s scope and effect.

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From the plan sponsor’s perspective, are there advantages to litigating under ERISA?

Yes. Since ERISA is a federal law, these cases will be handled in a federal court even if the case originated in a state court. Being in federal court is often advantageous. Moreover, ERISA pre-empts, or replaces entirely, most state law claims, including fraud, negligence, and breach of contract relating to employee benefit plans. ERISA does not permit the recovery of punitive damages, and rarely permits a jury trial, instead requiring that a judge decide the case.


  • Employee benefits claims (administrative proceedings and litigation)
  • Breach of fiduciary liability claims
  • COBRA claims
  • Discrimination claims under ERISA Section 510
  • Department of Labor proceedings
  • Multi-employer withdrawal liability claims
  • ERISA-related bankruptcy issue