Allstate Faces ERISA Interference of Benefits Claims

An equitable tolling period enlarged the number of plaintiffs that can move forward with interference of benefits claims.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has moved forward Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) Section 510 interference of benefits claims against Allstate Insurance Company.

Sixteen years-worth of litigation against the insurance company has been consolidated into one complaint. After Allstate terminated employment contracts of approximately 6,200 employee-agents and offered four alternative post-Allstate futures in 1999, 499 individual lawsuits have been filed.

While the court dismissed some ERISA claims brought by certain of the lawsuits after ERISA’s statute of limitations, it found that interference of benefits claims brought by later lawsuits could move forward due to equitable tolling. The first lawsuit, Romero v. Allstate, was filed within the statute of limitations, and plaintiffs who filed later lawsuits were covered in the class represented by Romero. The court concluded that the equitable tolling period preserves certain plaintiffs interference of benefits claims. However, plaintiffs in other cases did not file their lawsuits within the equitable tolling period.

The court also moved forward retaliation claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and ERISA based on counterclaims Allstate made in responding to the Romero lawsuit. The court found that the counterclaims, and threat of litigation, could dissuade the employees from pursuing their rights.

The court’s opinion may be viewed here.