ERISA Litigation Toolkit
A collection of resources to help employers, litigators, benefits compliance attorneys, plan service providers, and other advisors understand common ERISA litigation issues and develop strategies for handling litigated benefits disputes.
Employee benefit plans are governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ( www.practicallaw.com/0-382-3434) (ERISA), the comprehensive, yet often amended, federal law enacted in 1974 and known ever since for its complexity and, among other features, a notably broad preemption rule. Not surprisingly, ERISA litigation issues have a significant impact on day-to-day benefit plan compliance. One of the best examples of this close relationship is the Supreme Court's Firestone decision, addressing the standard of review in benefits disputes. However, ERISA litigation issues also arise in contexts less commonly associated with benefits, including labor negotiations, corporate transactions, domestic relations law, and privacy (to name a few).
Litigated benefits disputes occupy a significant part of the federal court docket. As the most prominent example, the Supreme Court routinely hears and decides one or more benefits-related cases each term, including recent decisions addressing fiduciary law, same-sex marriage, and a steady stream of rulings under the Affordable Care Act ( www.practicallaw.com/6-505-8403) (ACA) (see Significant Employee Benefits Developments Since the Enactment of ERISA Timeline ( www.practicallaw.com/1-577-3228) ). The lower federal courts, too, handle a substantial number of benefits cases each year, involving claims and appeals, statutory penalties, jurisdiction, and many other issues.
The need for attorneys (both litigators and compliance-focused) and other employee benefits professionals with ERISA litigation expertise is great. The continuously updated resources in this ERISA Litigation Toolkit are intended to help familiarize employers, practitioners, and other advisors with some of the most common issues in litigated disputes under ERISA. Among other topics, these resources address the kinds of actions that may be brought under ERISA, the deadlines for filing benefits disputes, and the judicial standard of review in a benefits action.