(Cleveland, OH) – U.S. District Court Judge Donald Nugent issued a landmark decision on Tuesday finding that thousands of American Family Mutual Insurance (“AmFam”) agents are actually employees. The ruling adopts the unanimous verdict of an advisory jury which found, after a two-week trial, that AmFam improperly classified its agents as independent contractors. Judge Nugent agreed that the nation’s third largest property and casualty insurance company exerted such control over its agents that, as a matter of law, they must be regarded as AmFam employees. The decision ends a four-year long battle over the agent misclassification issue.

“The Court’s ruling is an important step towards restoring and protecting the retirement benefits of the nearly 7000 agents in the class,” said attorney Charles J. Crueger of Crueger Dickinson, LLC (Milwaukee, WI), the lead law firm representing the agents. “This ruling could ultimately cost AmFam over one billion dollars in restored ERISA benefits.”

The case (Jammal, et al. v. American Family Insurance, Case No.: 13-cv-00437) alleged that AmFam avoids complying with ERISA, the federal law that protects retirement benefits, by improperly classifying its agents as independent contractors. Judge Nugent certified the case as a class action, presided over the advisory jury trial, and now has issued a decision which is likely to send shock waves through the insurance industry.
“A unanimous jury, and now the Judge, agreed that the agents were misclassified as independent contractors. This is a great day for the agents who had the courage to challenge the practices of a large corporation and fight for years to protect their rights as employees,” said attorney Erin K. Dickinson. “Large corporations can’t have it both ways. If you are going to dictate how people do their jobs, you have to give them the same benefits as other employees.”

Dickinson, Crueger and attorney Ed Wallace of Wexler Wallace, LLP (Chicago, Illinois) served as trial counsel for the class of AmFam agents. 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).
For more information, contact:
Erin Dickinson at 414-210-3767 or email at ekd@cruegerdickinson.com or Charles Crueger at 414-210-3900 or email at cjc@cruegerdickinson.com