Federal Jury Says American Family Insurance Misclassified its Agents
Class Action Could Protect Over $1 Billion in Retirement Benefits
(Cleveland, OH) – A jury in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio returned a unanimous decision on Tuesday finding that thousands of American Family Mutual Insurance (“AmFam”) agents are actually employees. After a two-week trial, the jury found that the nation’s third largest property and casualty insurance company improperly classified its agents as independent contractors.
“The jury apparently agreed that AmFam cannot have it both ways,” said attorney Erin K. Dickinson of Crueger Dickinson, LLC (Madison, WI). “A company cannot just call its agents ‘independent contractors’ to avoid following the federal law protecting retirement benefits and then insist on controlling how those agents do their work.”
The case (Jammal, et al. v. American Family Insurance, Case No.: 13-cv-00437) centered on the allegation that AmFam avoids complying with ERISA, the federal law that protects retirement benefits, by improperly classifying its agents as independent contractors when they are actually employees. The Honorable Donald Nugent certified the case as a class action and presided over the advisory jury trial. AmFam is headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin.
“There is a lot at stake for AmFam agents who have been wrongfully deprived of retirement benefits,” said attorney Charles J. Crueger. “We look forward to the next phase of the case.”
Crueger, Dickinson, and attorney Ed Wallace of Wexler Wallace, LLP (Chicago, Illinois) served as trial counsel for the class of AmFam agents. The jury’s decision is advisory. Judge Nugent must now decide whether to adopt the jury’s conclusion and issue a formal ruling. If adopted, the case would proceed to a remedy phase to restore and protect retirement benefits for 6,978 current and former AmFam agents across the country.
“This was an incredibly hard-fought trial with a lot at stake for AmFam agents who have been wrongfully deprived of retirement benefits,” said attorney Ed Wallace of Wexler Wallace, LLP (Chicago, Illinois). “We are very pleased that the jury so carefully evaluated the substantial evidence supporting this verdict.”
In addition to the trial counsel team, the Plaintiffs were also represented by Kara A. Elgersma of Wexler Wallace LLP, Jack Landskroner and Drew Legando of Landskroner Grieco Merriman, LLC (Cleveland, Ohio), and Gregory F. Coleman of Greg Coleman Law PC (Knoxville, TN).