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Employee Retirement Income Security Act

The Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 or ERISA applies to any “employee welfare benefit plan” established or maintained “by any employer engaged in commerce or in any industry or activity affecting commerce. 29 U.S.C. § 1003(a). An “employee welfare benefit plan” is defined in the statute as being any “plan, fund or program. . .established or 1 maintained by an employer or by an employee organization. . .for the purpose of providing for its participants or their beneficiaries, through the purchase of insurance or otherwise. . .benefits in the event of. . .disability. . .” 29 U.S.C. § 1002 (1). Consequently, if someone has a problem getting his or her medical insurance to cover a claim, or is covered for life insurance or long-term disability (“LTD”) insurance at work, and has been denied benefits, the claim is likely covered by ERISA. Unfortunately, under ERISA there is no right to a jury trial, punitive damages are prohibited, and discovery is limited.

Indeed, the court's review is limited to the “administrative record.” See, Miller v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 925 F.2d 979, 986 (6th Cir. 1991); Perry v. Simplicity Engineering, 900 F.2d 963 (6th Cir. 1990); McMahon v. New England Mut. Life Ins. Co., 888 F.2d 426, 431 N.1 (6 th Cir. 1989). Additionally, under ERISA an insurance company can win a case even if its decision was wrong because a plaintiff has to prove that the insurance company's decision was both wrong and unreasonable. Insurance companies take advantage of this situation.


Seth has always been compelled to excel, whether it meant earning his Eagle Scout as a teenager, participating in theater, debate and varsity football in high school, his Rhodes Scholar candidacy in college, or opening his own law firm. He also perseveres in situations others might shy away from, whether it involves sky-diving, rappelling down a mountain, white-water rafting, participating in marathons and triathlons, writing a novel, or lecturing nationally to large audiences about the vagaries of ERISA.


Seth is committed to serving disabled individuals. He is proud of his work in prominent organizations such as the American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) and Hospice. Seth is past-Chair of both AAJ's & TBA's Disability Law Sections, past-President of the Chattanooga Trial Lawyers Association, a 2-time recipient of the Pro Bono Excellence Award, and a 7 year member of the Board of Directors for Hospice of Chattanooga.