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Lawsuits & Litigation

First Annual Lex Machina ERISA Litigation Report Released

— August 23, 2019

More than $1.8 billion in ERISA-related Damages were awarded from 2016-2018 despite a decline in case filings.

Earlier this year, Lex Machina, a LexisNexis company, released its first ERISA Litigation Report, which highlights data-driven trends and insights from more than 86,000 cases concerning disputes over the administration of employee benefits plans protected by The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974. The report focuses on the three-year time period from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2018 to showcase recent trends in U.S. District Court, but also looks at longer-term trends. To request a full copy of the report, please visit

The ERISA Litigation Report highlights a broad range of litigation data, including case filings, case timing, most active districts, judges, parties and law firms, case resolutions and findings, and damages awarded. The report focuses on two primary case types: claim denial and delinquent contribution claims, which make up 85% of all ERISA cases in the Lex Machina database.

“Lex Machina’s first-of-its-kind ERISA report provides insights into this highly complex and dynamic area of the law, illuminating the intricacies and litigation trends of ERISA-protected benefit plans that can’t be found anywhere else,” said Greg Brumfield, Legal Data Expert at Lex Machina. “With billions of dollars at stake, ERISA attorneys need access to the most accurate data possible to help them provide better counsel to their clients and make better business and legal decisions.”

Decline in ERISA filings, 2016-2018; graphic courtesy of Lex Machina.
Decline in ERISA filings, 2016-2018; graphic courtesy of Lex Machina.

The report reveals that the number of ERISA case filings declined from nearly 9,000 cases to about 6,600 cases from 2010 to 2018, a 26% drop. Delinquent contribution case filings have seen a significant decline from nearly 4,400 cases in 2010 to over 1,900 cases in 2018. This decline is likely the result of a decrease in pension-related litigation over the last decade. On the other hand, claim denial case filings have risen over the same period, peaking at more than 4,000 filings in 2017, up from just over 3,000 filings in 2010 indicating employers are switching from pensions to 401Ks or similar retirement accounts.

Other report highlights covering 2016 through 2018 include:

  • Courts awarded over $1 billion in approved class action settlement damages. The next largest damages award type was ERISA plan benefits (more than $670 million), followed by liquidated damages (more than $80 million).
  • Northern District of Illinois had the most case filings during the 2016-2018 period (1698 cases), likely due to its strong union presence and large population. The next most-active districts were the Central District of California (1053 cases) and the District of New Jersey (1030). 
  • The top four most active ERISA judges in the US came from the District of South Carolina, due to the large number of life insurance companies in that state as well as a specialized ERISA case management structure. 
  • In claim denial cases, healthcare companies were the most active plaintiffs, while insurance companies were the most active defendants. In delinquent contribution cases, plaintiffs were mostly pension funds, while defendants tended to be construction companies or insurance companies.

About Lex Machina
Lex Machina’s award-winning Legal Analytics® platform fundamentally changes how companies and law firms compete in the business and practice of law. The company provides strategic insights on judges, lawyers, law firms, parties, and other critical information across 12 federal practice areas and the Delaware Court of Chancery. This allows law firms and companies to predict the behaviors and outcomes that different legal strategies will produce, enabling them to win cases and close business.

Legal Analytics was named “Best Legal Analytics” by readers of The Recorder in 2014, 2015 and 2016, and received the “Best New Product of the Year” award in 2015 from the American Association of Law Libraries. The company was named a “Legal A.I. Leader” by The National Law Journal in 2018 and was a finalist in the 2019 LegalWeek Product Innovation awards. 

Based in Silicon Valley, Lex Machina is part of LexisNexis, a leading global provider of legal, regulatory and business information and analytics. For more information, please visit

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