• David Martin

An ERISA Exception

The Church Plan

Is every employee benefit claim governed by ERISA? There are a few exceptions to ERISA, but it may take counsel experienced in ERISA to prove this. The Middle District of Alabama in Lawrence et al., v. Nation, et al. articulated how the church plan exception (as it is called in case law) is met in a life insurance case. The exception refers also to synagogues, temples or other institutions of worship. The plaintiffs filed suit in state court for fraud, misrepresentation, suppression, bad faith and breach of contract. The defendants promptly removed the case to federal court claiming that ERISA pre-empted all claims.

The court first noted that the defendant had the burden of establishing the basis of removal jurisdiction, and therefore the plaintiffs were not obliged to come forth with evidence proving that the plan was endorsed by a church. The court also found that the fact the church was incorporated did not exclude it from being a church. Further the fact that there was a designated president did not preclude it from being considered a church. Accordingly, the court concluded that the plan qualified as a church plan exempt from ERISA.

Contact us today for a free initial consultation.

The Martin Law Group is dedicated to being your go-to ERISA attorneys and long term disability lawyers. Whether you are pursuing a long-term disability claim, life insurance benefits, or your pension or retirement benefits, we will meet with you face-to-face to discuss your claim at a location convenient for you. 


In an effort to make disability claims as easy as possible, we offer a free initial consultation. We often work with clients in Huntsville, Mobile, Birmingham, Montgomery, Dothan, Tuscaloosa, and Florence, in Alabama, as well as with clients in Columbus, Meridian, Jackson, Hattiesburg, Tupelo, and Gulfport, Mississippi, and surrounding areas.

Contact us today for a free consultation.

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Birmingham, Alabama 35203
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