Jammal, et al. v. American Family Ins. Group, et al.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why did the Court issue the Notice?
  2. What is this Litigation about?
  3. How do I know if I am part of the Class?
  4. Is there any money available now?
  5. Has the Court decided who is right?
  6. What happens if I exclude myself from the Class?
  7. How do I ask to be excluded?
  8. Do I have a lawyer in this case?
  9. How will the lawyers be paid?
  10. How and when will the Court decide the case?
  11. Do I have to come to Court?
  12. What if I changed my mailing address?
  13. What should I do if I believe I am in the class but have not received a class notice in the mail?
  14. What did the jury decide?
  15. Does the Judge have to follow the jury’s decision?
  16. What if the Judge decides not to adopt the jury’s decision that the agents are employees?
  17. What if the Judge decides to adopt the jury’s decision that the agents are employees?
  18. If I’m an American Family agent, does that mean that I am now an employee?
  19. Is the Class also seeking benefits under the retirement and 401K plans American Family offers to its employees?
  20. If the Judge decides to adopt the jury’s decision, what will I receive?
  21. If the Judge decides to adopt the jury’s decision, is the case over?
  22. I’ve heard the case is “worth” $1 billion. Is that accurate and where does that number come from?
  23. What are the prospects of settlement?
  1. Why did the Court issue the Notice?

    This notice was issued because a Court has “certified” this case to proceed to trial as a class action lawsuit on issues of liability under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and your rights may be affected.  If you are a current or former agent who falls within one or more of the Class definitions listed in the Notice, you may have legal rights and options that you can exercise before the Court decides whether the claims being made against American Family on your behalf are correct.

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  2. What is this Litigation about?

    This lawsuit is about whether the agents’ termination benefits plan (also called extended earnings) is a retirement plan that must comply with ERISA. Plaintiffs claim that American Family misclassified its agents as independent contractors and, as a result of the misclassification, the termination benefits plan does not provide the minimum level of benefits required by ERISA.  Plaintiffs also claim that the agents may have been entitled to participate in certain employee benefit welfare plans.

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  3. How do I know if I am part of the Class?

    You are a Class member if you fall within one or more of the following cateogories:
    1. Termination Benefits Class: Each person who signed an American Family Agent Agreement and (1) was an active agent as of February 28, 2013, or (2) is a former agent whose Agent Agreement was terminated on or after February 28, 2007;
    2. Termination Benefits Breach of Fiduciary Duty Class: Each person who signed an American Family Agent Agreement and (1) was an active agent as of February 28, 2013, or (2) is a former agent whose Agent Agreement was terminated on or after February 28, 2010;
    3. Health/Dental/Life/Disability Class: Each person who signed an American Family Agent Agreement and (1) was an active agent as of February 28, 2013, or (2) was a former agent who became a full-time American Family Agent and came off an agent financing program on or after February 28, 2007. 

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  4. Is there any money available now?

    No money is available now and there is no guarantee that money will ever be awarded or obtained.

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  5. Has the Court decided who is right?

    The Court has not ruled on the merits of the claims.  The lawyers for the Plaintiffs will present their claims and the lawyers for the Defendants will argue their defenses at a trial which is continued to April 3, 2017 at 8:30 a.m. EDT in Courtroom 15A at the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, located at the Carl B. Stokes U.S. Court House, 801 West Superior Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44113.

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  6. What happens if I exclude myself from the Class?

    The Court certified the Class for both injunctive and declaratory relief.  You may not exclude yourself from this portion of the case.  In terms of injunctive and declaratory relief, the Plaintiffs are asking for, among other relief, a declaration stating that Plaintiffs and Class Members are legal “employees,” a declaration that the Termination Benefits Plan is an employee benefit plan subject to ERISA, declaratory and injunctive relief that American Family pay retirement benefits according to a Termination Benefits Plan that complies with ERISA’s minimum protections, as well as an injunction barring Defendants from continuing to misclassify the Class as “independent contractors” rather than “employees.” 

    Thus, if Plaintiffs are successful at trial, the injunctive and declaratory relief may provide all the relief the class seeks, including benefits due under a Termination Benefits Plan that complies with ERISA.  Again, you may not exclude yourself from this portion of the case and you will be bound by all orders and judgments of the Court related to injunctive and declaratory relief. 

    The Court may also determine, however, that class members should be able to opt out of any monetary relief (damages) that flow from the declaratory and injunctive relief that American Family pay benefits according to a Termination Benefits Plan that complies with ERISA.  You may only exclude yourself from the damages portion of this case.  If you exclude yourself from the damages portion of this case, you will not be bound by any of the Court’s orders or judgments relating to damages and you will keep your rights to sue or continue to sue the Defendants for damages in a different case for the claims included in this lawsuit.  However, regardless of whether you exclude yourself, you will be bound by all orders and judgments of the Court related to injunctive and declaratory relief.

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  7. How do I ask to be excluded?

    To exclude yourself from the Class, send a letter that states you want to be excluded from Jammal, et al. v. American Family Ins. Group, et al., Case No. 13-cv-00437. Include your name, address, telephone number, and signature.  You must mail your exclusion letter so that it is postmarked by February 21, 2017 to:

    Jammal, et al. v. American Family Ins. Group, et al. Class Action Administrator

    3301 Kerner Boulevard, San Rafael, CA 94901

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  8. Do I have a lawyer in this case?

    Yes.  The Court has appointed attorneys at Crueger Dickinson LLC; Wexler Wallace LLP; Greg Coleman Law, P.C.; and Landskroner, Greico, Merriman LLC as Class Counsel to represent the Class in this case.  These lawyers have experience handling other class actions. 

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  9. How will the lawyers be paid?

    Class Counsel is representing you and the rest of the Class on a contingent fee basis and advancing all costs of the litigation on behalf of the Class, the reimbursement of which is also contingent on the outcome of the case.  Counsel will be compensated and reimbursed in one of two ways: (1) if a judgment is obtained on behalf of the Class in this lawsuit, Class Counsel will ask the Court for an award of reasonable fees, plus expenses; or (2) if a settlement is reached on behalf of the Class in this lawsuit, Class Counsel will ask the Court to approve the settlement, as well as a request for reasonable attorneys’ fees and expenses, which, if approved, will either be paid from the settlement or separately by the Defendants.

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  10. How and when will the Court decide the case?

    The case will be decided by Judge Nugent and possibly an advisory jury at a trial that has been continued to April 3, 2017 at 8:30 a.m. EDT.  The trial will take place in Courtroom 15A at the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, located at the Carl B. Stokes U.S. Court House, 801 West Superior Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44113. 

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  11. Do I have to come to Court?

    No, you do not have to come to Court unless you choose to do so.  Class Counsel will present the case for the Plaintiffs and the lawyers for the Defendants will present their defenses.  You or your own lawyer may appear in Court for this case at your own expense.

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  12. What if I changed my mailing address?

    Please see the Contact Us page for ways to submit your new mailing address.

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  13. What should I do if I believe I am in the class but have not received a class notice in the mail?

    If you believe you were an agent with American Family during the class periods listed in FAQ 3 but have not received a class notice in the mail, contact 1-855-830-2666 for further assistance.

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  14. What did the jury decide?

    The jury decided that plaintiffs had proved that the agents were employees under ERISA.

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  15. Does the Judge have to follow the jury’s decision?

    No. The jury in this case was what is called an advisory jury and in an ERISA case like this one, the Judge has to decide whether to adopt or reject the jury’s decision. 

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  16. What if the Judge decides not to adopt the jury’s decision that the agents are employees?

    Then the Plaintiffs and Class will have to decide whether to appeal the Judge’s decision.  ERISA’s protections do not extend to benefits offered to workers classified as independent contractors.

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  17. What if the Judge decides to adopt the jury’s decision that the agents are employees?

    Then the case will continue to the next phase to determine what relief the Class is entitled to.  Specifically, the Court will decide whether the Termination Benefits plan is a retirement plan and if that plan needs to be reformed to comply with ERISA’s minimum protections and requirements.  (ERISA is the federal law protecting retirement benefits.)  The Court will also have to decide whether the Class was entitled to participate in the health and other welfare benefits plans American Family offered to its employees.

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  18. If I’m an American Family agent, does that mean that I am now an employee?

    No.  The Judge has made no decision on the classification issue and the jury’s decision was based on the law under ERISA.  The jury’s decision, if adopted by the Court, does not automatically convert agents to employees for all purposes.  As we have said before, the case seeks ERISA benefits, including the protection and funding of retirement benefits.

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  19. Is the Class also seeking benefits under the retirement and 401K plans American Family offers to its employees?

    No.  American Family wrote its retirement and 401K plans to exclude the agents even if they were employees.

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  20. If the Judge decides to adopt the jury’s decision, what will I receive?

    Nothing.  No relief flows automatically from a finding that American Family misclassified that Class as independent contractors. There will be additional proceedings to determine what relief is available under ERISA.  See “What if the Judge decides to adopt the jury’s decision that the agents are employees,” above.

    

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  21. If the Judge decides to adopt the jury’s decision, is the case over?

    No.  There will be additional proceedings to determine what relief is available.  See “What if the Judge decides to adopt the jury’s decision that the agents are employees,” above.

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  22. I’ve heard the case is “worth” $1 billion. Is that accurate and where does that number come from?

    The number comes from a report issued by Plaintiffs’ expert actuary in this case.  The $1 billion number is a combination of two different numbers.  The first number is American Family’s existing liability to pay benefits under the Termination Benefits plan.  This first number is approximately $500+ million.  That liability is unfunded, however, and Plaintiffs contend ERISA would require American Family to fund that liability.  The second number is the increase in pension liability from having to comply with ERISA’s minimum protections, such as vesting, accrual, and paying a level annuity.  The second number is approximately $500+ million.

    American Family’s position is that even if ERISA applied, the Termination Benefits plan is a “top hat” plan maintained primarily for a “select group of management or highly compensated employees,” and it is therefore exempt from most of ERISA’s protections. Thus, American Family contends there would be no increase in liability if it had to comply with ERISA and it would not have to fund the liability.  Plaintiffs dispute American Family’s “top hat” plan position and, if the Judge adopts the jury’s decision, the parties will move to the next phase of the case, which will address this issue. 

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  23. What are the prospects of settlement?

    Plaintiffs and lead counsel have always been willing to resolve the case in a fair and reasonable manner.  They also recognize that the case, like all lawsuits, has risk and that resolution is always preferred.  American Family, however, chose to try the case to the jury.  Hence, the jury’s decision.

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