Every year, the Federal Bar Association hosts a program for summer associates (i.e., law students working in firms for the summer) and newer attorneys (practicing 3 or fewer years) where two cases are argued before the members, followed by a commentary by the presiding judge and discussion and reception afterwards. See details on the event here. The arguments and the event take place in the federal courthouse ceremonial courtroom. This year, one of the two cases to be argued before the members is a pension benefit dispute handled by Michael Bartolic, Simlesa v. Alcoa, Inc., No. 15-1506 (N.D. Ill.). The argument will be heard on Tuesday, July 21, 2015 at 3:30 p.m. at the Dirksen Federal Building, 219 S. Dearborn Street, Courtroom 2523.
The Simlesa case concerns a Croatian ship engineer who worked for Alcoa on its ships, left for several years and returned for approximately ten more years. When he retired and claimed his pension, Alcoa denied the claim asserting Simlesa was not Alcoa’s employee during his second stint working on its ships. Instead, Alcoa asserts Simlesa was an employee of the vessel manager. The argument to be heard next week is regarding the scope of discovery Simlesa can obtain from Alcoa to prove he was Alcoa’s employee. Alcoa contends in an ERISA benefit claim dispute, discovery should be limited to the administrative record (largely the documents it chose to put before a committee of its own executives). Simlesa contends, on the other hand, that all facts known or available to the committee (such as the service agreement with the vessel manager showing whether it was to hire its own employees or hire employees on behalf of Alcoa) must be included in the record because they resolve the issue, and were available to Alcoa.
It is both a privilege and an honor for the Firm to have the opportunity to display its work to students and young lawyers. If you have any questions about your pension benefits from your employer, speak with an experienced ERISA attorney today.