Payne & Fears LLP represents companies and employee benefit plans in employee benefits litigation, typically defending plan determinations in the federal courts against claims for long-term disability, pension, 401(k), medical and life benefits.  Our attorneys have extensive experience in the federal courts where such claims are commonly brought under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”) and where the ERISA preemption defense is commonly asserted.  Where benefits lawsuits are improperly brought in the state courts, we have frequently removed them to the federal courts under the jurisdiction of ERISA.   We also have significant experience in representing employee benefit plans in federal interpleader actions, where two or more plan participants have conflicting claims to the same benefits, and the plan seeks direction from the federal court about which participant should be paid.

Recent Successes

Jul 10

Court Denies De Novo Review in Favor of Request for Abuse of Discretion Standard

In a case brought in federal court under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) against our client, a national retailer, and its group health insurance plan for denial of an expensive surgery as not medically necessary, the court ordered briefing on the appropriate standard of court review. In ERISA cases, the standard of review is very important to determine whether the court will defer to the plan’s determination. Plaintiff filed a motion arguing for de novo review based on a California Insurance Code section he claimed...

Attorneys: Andrew K. Haeffele, Eric C. Sohlgren


Payne & Fears LLP Obtained Major Win in Widely Publicized Class Action

In late July, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ended a 23-year bid by a retired employee of the world's largest aerospace company to force the company's pension plan to retroactively recalculate decades of pension benefits she and other retirees commenced while working. The plaintiff, one of the original "Rosie the Riveters" who riveted planes during WWII, and who recently retired from making C-17s at the age of 95, claimed that her and other participants' pension benefits had been underpaid since at least 1989. In 2015, Payne...

Attorneys: Eric C. Sohlgren


Payne & Fears LLP Obtains a Major Victory for an ERISA Pension Plan

Payne & Fears LLP obtained a major victory for an ERISA pension plan by ending a nationwide class action lawsuit claiming back pension benefits for a period exceeding twenty years. The federal district court granted the plan’s motion for summary judgment, and denied the motion for summary judgment brought by the named class representative plaintiff. The court first agreed with the plan that a slight delay of the plan administrator in responding to the plaintiff’s administrative appeal was not sufficiently egregious to invoke de novo...

Attorneys: Andrew K. Haeffele, Daniel F. Fears , Eric C. Sohlgren


Payne & Fears LLP Wins Complete Defense for Boeing ERISA Plan

Payne & Fears LLP represented a Boeing ERISA health plan which had been sued by a provider for the plan’s alleged wrongful denial of coverage due to a determination that the medical care being provided was excluded under the plan as an investigational treatment. Upon Payne & Fears LLP’s motion for summary judgment, the court held that the plan’s decision to deny coverage was only subject to abuse of discretion review under ERISA, and that under that review the plan’s decision to deny coverage was reasonable based on its...

Attorneys: Eric C. Sohlgren