Litigation on behalf of Plans, Plan Participants, and Unions

Bredhoff & Kaiser, PLLC maintains an active employee benefits litigation practice representing unions, employee benefit plans, and participants and beneficiaries of employee benefit plans at all levels of the federal court system and in arbitrations. Among the significant employee benefit cases before the U.S. Supreme Court in which the firm has participated are:  Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. v. Bruch, 489 U.S. 101 (1989), the seminal case involving the appropriate standard of review under ERISA of benefit determinations made by plan fiduciaries; M&G Polymers USA, LLC v. Tackett, 135 S.Ct. 926 (2015); Beck v. PACE International Union, 551 U.S. 96 (2007); General Dynamics Land Sys., Inc. v. Cline, 540 U.S. 581 (2004); DeBuono v. NYSA-ILA Med. & Clinical Servs. Fund, 520 U.S. 806 (1997); California v. Dillingham Constr., Inc., 519 U.S. 316 (1997); New York State Conference of Blue Cross & Blue Shield Plans v. Travelers Ins. Co., 514 U.S. 645 (1995); Concrete Pipe & Prods. v. Construction Laborers Pension Trust, 508 U.S. 602 (1993); Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. v. LTV Corp., 496 U.S. 633 (1990); Massachusetts v. Morash, 490 U.S. 107 (1989); Schneider Moving & Storage v. Robbins, 466 U.S. 364 (1984);Franchise Tax Bd. v. Construction Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1 (1983); United Mine Workers of Am. Health & Retirement Funds v. Robinson, 455 U.S. 562 (1982); and National Labor Relations Bd. v. Amax Coal, 453 U.S. 322 (1981). And the firm has handled scores of employee benefit cases before the federal appellate courts, trial courts, bankruptcy courts and arbitrators on issues involving collections, provider disputes, benefit claims and alleged fiduciary breaches.

A few examples may help to demonstrate the breadth of the firm’s experience with regard to important issues in the employee benefits area. The firm has represented the taxpayers in two cases before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit challenging the Internal Revenue Service’s position that the buyout of their tenure rights by the school districts that employed them constituted wages subject to federal employment taxes. Appoloni v. United States, 450 F.3d 185 (6th Cir. 2006). In AARP v. Equal Employment Opportunity Comm’n, 489 F.3d 558 (3d Cir. 2007), the firm authored an amicus brief on behalf of five labor unions supporting the EEOC’s regulation permitting the coordination of retiree medical benefits with Medicare. And, in Quesenberry v. Volvo Trucks North America, 651 F.3d 437 (4th Cir. 2011), the firm successfully tried a case for a group of retirees to preserve retiree medical benefits against the employer’s action to begin charging premiums that the retirees could not afford, and obtained an appellate decision affirming that victory.

The firm represented the United Auto Workers in litigation challenging cutbacks in retiree health benefits threatened by General Motors and Ford Motor Company. Both cases were class actions in which a proposed settlement was introduced to the court for its approval. In both cases, the settlements were approved by the district court over the objections of intervenors. Those intervenors appealed to the Sixth Circuit, which affirmed the district court’s approval of the settlements.  United Auto Workers v. General Motors Corp., 497 F.3d 615 (6th Cir. 2007).  These cases build on the firm’s work over a decade ago in Shy v. Navistar, Case No. C-3-92-333 (S.D. Ohio 1992), where as special counsel to a class of unions – led by the United Auto Workers – and 63,000 retirees, the firm sought to enforce their rights to company-paid health benefits and successfully persuaded the court to approve a settlement that provided the Navistar retirees partially pre-funded, irreducible, lifetime health benefits that are less costly than their previous benefits. The reduced cost of these benefits permitted the company to become financially viable. As part of the settlement, the retirees became beneficial owners of 50 percent of Navistar’s outstanding common stock. In addition to serving as lead litigation counsel in that case, the firm also represented the class before the U.S. Department of Labor for purposes of obtaining an exemption with respect to the acquisition of the Navistar stock by a proposed health benefits trust. And the firm represented the class before the Internal Revenue Service and provided advice with respect to the tax aspects of the settlement.