Partners Hufford and Cowart Named as National Law Journal Trailblazers
Zuckerman Spaeder LLP is pleased to announce that D. Brian Hufford and Jason S. Cowart, both partners in the New York office, have been named 2021 Plaintiffs’ Lawyer Trailblazers by The National Law Journal. The publication recognized their trailblazing health care work, saying the attorneys “have developed novel strategies utilizing overlooked provisions of the ERISA law to provide relief to thousands of behavioral health patients and health care providers and help change health law.”
The National Law Journal highlighted Mr. Hufford’s and Mr. Cowart’s work challenging insurers’ systematic denial of mental health coverage – coverage that is owed to insured individuals under the Mental Health Parity Act and other laws. Mr. Cowart told the publication that their national effort to address mental health discrimination is both challenging and unique. “No one does this kind of work,” he said.
Their landmark win in 2019 on behalf of more than 50,000 plaintiffs whose claims were illegally denied by United Behavioral Health represented the first time an insurer was forced to stand trial for widespread behavioral health-related denials. “Insurance companies use ERISA to block a lot of court actions, but we turned it around to use ERISA affirmatively,” Mr. Hufford told The National Law Journal. “We argued that the decision was based on flawed guidelines, so the claims should be reprocessed.” In 2020, Chief Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a remedy ruling which will provide the plaintiffs with the maximum relief available under the law.
Zuckerman Spaeder’s Health Care practice has received numerous honors in recent years. Law360 recognized the firm with Practice Group of the Year awards in Health Care for 2017-2019 and in Benefits for 2019. Among a host of individual recognitions from various publications for members of the team, Mr. Hufford was recognized by Law360 as a Health Law MVP in 2015-2017 and a Benefits MVP in 2019 and partner Caroline E. Reynolds, another leader in the firm’s behavioral health cases, was named by The National Law Journal as both a Winning Litigator and a D.C. Trailblazer in 2020.