Practicing in Federal Circuit Courts Across the U.S.
Representing disability claimants and life insurance beneficiaries, we at ERISA Law Center handle cases in all U.S. Courts of Appeal. These courts handle cases related to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). ERISA provides legal recourse for employees dealing with denied or terminated disability, health care, life insurance and pension benefits. Depending on where you live and work, or where your employer is based, your case will be heard in an appellate court. This venue and the presiding judge may have more of an impact on your ERISA case than you would think.
ERISA is a federal law and is supposed to be a uniform system of national law. It isn't. While ERISA statutes haven't changed very much since the law was adopted in 1974, courts around the country have interpreted and applied that law differently. Supreme Court decisions on ERISA law are binding everywhere, but decisions by the 12 geographic circuit courts of appeal which have jurisdiction over ERISA cases are controlling only within the jurisdiction of that circuit. In a lot of areas of ERISA law, circuits have adopted different legal standards. Some circuits seem to favor claimants more than others.
What can be drawn from a review of case law from around the country? ERISA law can strongly favor insurance companies and plans. Depending on the factual and legal issues operating in your case, some circuits may offer more favorable treatment than others. What's certain is that it's not as simple as saying one circuit is better than another - it will depend on a number of factors.