Two Supreme Court decisions in cases handled by MoFo’s Appellate & Supreme Court Practice Group were highlighted by Law360 as among the “biggest” decisions of 2020 in their respective areas of law.
Law360 named Thole v. U.S. Bank as one of the “biggest ERISA rulings” of 2020. MoFo represented U.S. Bank, winning in a 5-4 decision. Law360 quoted an expert’s view that the decision will “have a significant impact on the nature and scope of claims that [will be] brought under ERISA” in the future. The Court held that the plaintiffs, who were challenging management of the bank’s pension plan, lacked Article III standing because their retirement benefits were not at risk. That decision ended a suit seeking up to $750 million in remedies from U.S. Bank. More generally, the decision strengthens a rule of critical importance to business defendants—that only plaintiffs with real injuries may seek relief in federal court. Group co-chair Joe Palmore argued the case in the Supreme Court, and partner James Sigel supervised briefing
Law360 listed ARCO v. Christian as one of the “biggest environmental law decisions of 2020.” MoFo represented a group of Montana property owners in the case, which presented important questions about the interplay between state common-law trespass actions for property contamination and the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (the “Superfund” statute). MoFo’s clients won in significant part—the Court held 8-1 that the Superfund statute did not strip state courts of jurisdiction over the property-owner’s state-law claims. Law360 noted that this holding “cleared up a gray area in Superfund law about how state laws may be used by plaintiffs in conjunction with federally approved cleanups.” Group co-chair Joe Palmore argued the case in the Supreme Court, and partner James Sigel supervised briefing.