Court Dismisses Former Law Firm Partners' Claim for Health Benefits

March 30, 2007 ( - The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan has dismissed claims a group of retired law firm partners brought against their former employer for discontinuing health care coverage.

According to the order dismissing the suit, the partnership agreement under which the plaintiffs were seeking benefits is not a plan covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The court pointed out ERISA does not apply to plans covering only owners or partners.

The court further stated that the law firm’s decision to halt medical benefits for both partners and employees, as well as the fact both partner and employee medical benefits were funded by the same insurance policy, do not negate that the retirees’ claims fall under the partnership agreement.

After the law firm announced its decision to discontinue payment of health care benefits for active and retired partners and employees in 2002, ten retired partners filed an ERISA lawsuit claiming they were entitled to benefits. The district court dismissed the claims for lack of federal question subject matter jurisdiction.

The decision in Hayes, et. al. v. Lacey & Jones is here .