You Might Have an ERISA Case If… The Basics

People often discover too late that their case is governed by ERISA. And, that can make or break a claim. At a minimum, it can dramatically alter a client’s expectations.

Jury trials, punitive damages, and mental anguish damages are generally not allowed under ERISA. Therefore, that case that looks like a promising bad faith case, with the potential for a large recovery, may well be an ERISA case where damages are limited.

The good news is that it is still a worthwhile case!

Here are the basics on ERISA’s jurisdiction:

  • There must be a plan, fund, or program.
  • There must have been action taken to establish or maintain it.
  • It must have been established or maintained by an employer or an association (like a teacher’s association).
  • The purpose must be to provide a benefit.
  • The benefit must be for participants or beneficiaries.

There are exceptions, of course, such as that in 29 U.S.C. § 1135, when an employer is merely involved with a welfare benefit plan but does not actually establish or maintain it. And, those plans provided by governments and churches are also generally excluded.

These are the basics. And as you can see, it doesn’t take much for ERISA to capture your claim.

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