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MAKING GREAT ERISA LAW FOR PLAINTIFFS

Typically the federal court's review in ERISA cases is limited to the “administrative record.” However, in the Eastern and Middle Districts of Tennessee, if a defendant had an inherent conflict of interest that impacted the benefit decision, then a plaintiff is entitled to some degree of discovery related to this issue. However, in 2011, in a case entitled Freshour v. Sun Life, No. 2-10-cv-153 (E.D. Tenn.), the defendant took a different tact and filed a Motion for Protective order requesting that the Court “enter an Order forbidding the discovery” and “relieving it from any obligation to respond to Plaintiff's discovery requests.”

Sun Life put forth a novel argument, asserting that “conflict analysis – and, by extension, discovery for that purpose – may only apply in a close case, in effect serving as a ‘tie-breaker.'” Sun Life argued that if its claim determination “is so clearly reasonable” then “conflict discovery is substantively irrelevant” and plaintiff must present a “colorable procedural challenge” before obtaining conflict discovery.

The entitlement to limited discovery had grown out of a line of cases in which I was lead counsel. I reasoned that plaintiff's discovery requests were virtually identical to those approved in one of my cases, Kinsler v. Lincoln Nat'l Life Ins. Co., F. Supp. 2d, 2009 WL 2996723 (M.D. Tenn. Sept. 21, 2009), and were similar to those compelled in another, Phillips v. Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, Slip op. *1-3, Docket No. 3:08-660 (M.D. Tenn. Nov. 23, 2009). I pointed out there was no requirement that, before discovery, a plaintiff must argue the substantive merits and show a court that a defendant's benefit determination is “not clearly reasonable.” I reasoned that it made no sense to force a court to review the substantive merits of a case before it allowed discovery. That would be putting the cart before the horse.

The Magistrate essentially agreed with my reasoning; my approach would better facilitate the prompt and inexpensive resolution of disputes. The defendant appealed to the District Court, which upheld the Magistrate's ruling.

Dsethholliday compressor

Seth Holliday

As a partner at the McMahan Law Firm, LLC, D. Seth Holliday litigates disability, health and life insurance claims on behalf of individuals who have been wrongfully denied their benefits. He is also dedicated to representing the seriously injured in personal injury litigation. Regarding private insurance benefits, Mr. Holliday has sued such insurance companies as Unum, Hartford, Prudential, Standard, Guardian/Berkshire, Cigna, MetLife, Aetna, Liberty Mutual, Mass-Mutual, and others that have denied individuals their private disability insurance (called “long-term disability” or “LTD”), life insurance or health insurance claims. His track record here is superb, and he obtains excellent results for his clients. Mr. Holliday is one of only a handful of attorneys across the United States who practices heavily in these areas. He has represented well over two thousand claimants at Social Security hearings and has a very high success rate. Attorney Holliday is a 1996 graduate of Washington University School of Law and he initially practiced in Chicago, Illinois. There, in the personal injury context, he had a principal role in obtaining three awards which were confirmed by the local jury verdict reporter as being the highest on record in the State of Illinois in their respective category. Attorney Holliday has been a leader in prominent organizations. He is a former member of the Board of Governors of the Tennessee Association for Justice, past-chair of the Disability Law Section of the American Association for Justice, past-chair of the TBA's Disability Law Section of the Tennessee Bar Association, and past-president of the Chattanooga Trial Lawyers Association. These are all associations of lawyers who advocate on behalf of injured or disabled individuals. Mr. Holliday has lectured regularly on disability issues to other attorneys and has also taught trial advocacy at the DePaul University College of Law in Chicago and business law at Chattanooga State Technical Community College in Tennessee. Additionally, Mr. Holliday provides free legal services to a variety of charitable organizations in the Chattanooga area, including the Chattanooga Community Kitchen and Legal Aid of East Tennessee. He is a two-time past recipient of the Pro Bono Excellence Award. Mr. Holliday is a former member of the board of directors for Hospice of Chattanooga, having served as chairman of its governance committee and as a member of its executive and finance committees. PRACTICE AREAS Social Security disability Health and life insurance claims Administrative law Personal injury claims Long-term disability and ERISA claims Insurance litigation Disability law BAR ADMISSIONS Illinois, 1996 U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, 1996 Tennessee, 2003 U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Tennessee, 2004 U.S. District Court, Middle and Western Districts of Tennessee, 2008 U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, 2009 U.S. District Court, Middle District of Georgia, 2010 Georgia, 2013 U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia, 2015 CERTIFICATIONS Certified as a Specialist in Social Security Disability Law by the National Board of Social Security Disability Advocacy. HONORS AV® Distinguished™ Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell® Legal Aid of East Tennessee Pro Bono Excellence Award EDUCATION J.D., Washington University School of Law, 1996 B.A, Millsaps College, 1991 PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS National Association of Social Security Claimants' Representatives American Association of Justice Tennessee Bar Association Tennessee Association of Justice Chattanooga Trial Lawyers Association SOCIAL MEDIA AVVO Linkedin Facebook ADJUNCT PROFESSOR Chattanooga State Technical Community College, spring 2008 DePaul University College of Law, fall 1999 SEMINARS Moderator - Social Security Disability and ERISA Law Sections Presentation American Association for Justice Annual Convention 2012 Moderator - Disability Benefits Forum Tennessee Bar Association CLE Seminar 2011 Speaker - What Trial Lawyers Need to Know About Subrogation and Offsets in Long Term Disability & Social Security Kentucky Justice Association CLE Seminar 2010 Speaker - Interplay Between Social Security Disability and Long-Term Disability Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association CLE Seminar 2010 Speaker - Ethical Considerations for Social Security Disability Attorneys Tennessee Bar Association CLE Seminar 2009 Speaker - Social Security Disability: The Basics and Beyond Tennessee Association for Justice CLE Seminar 2008 Speaker - Social Security Disability National Business Institute CLE Seminar 2007 Speaker - Social Security Disability National Business Institute CLE Seminar 2006

Excellence

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.

Committed

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.