Zuckerman Spaeder Partners Hufford and Reynolds Named as 2021 Law360 MVPs

D. Brian  Hufford
D. Brian Hufford
Caroline E. Reynolds
Caroline E. Reynolds

Zuckerman Spaeder is pleased to announce that partners D. Brian Hufford and Caroline E. Reynolds have been named Law360 MVPs of the Year in the Benefits category. The annual awards recognize attorneys who have achieved notable successes in high-stakes litigation, complex global matters, and record-breaking deals. For Mr. Hufford, the 2021 award represents the fifth time he has received this honor since 2015.

Mr. Hufford and Ms. Reynolds, together with partner Jason S. Cowart, lead a national practice on behalf of health care providers and their patients in disputes with health insurance companies. In naming them MVPs, Law360 focused on their groundbreaking fight against insurers’ widespread and systematic denial of behavioral health treatment claims. The small team is utilizing novel interpretations of the Employee Retirement and Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) to deliver major results, including a potentially game-changing defeat of an insurance plan’s exclusion of a core autism treatment and a complete win on the hotly-contested remedy following the landmark Wit v. United Behavioral Health decision.

The Wit case, which former U.S. Representative and mental health advocate Patrick Kennedy called the “Brown v. Board of Education for the mental health movement,” established that UBH intentionally used flawed internal guidelines that led to the improper denial of 67,000 mental health and substance use disorder coverage claims. The remedy order obtained by the Zuckerman Spaeder team will force the nation’s largest behavioral health insurer to reprocess the claims in question and reform its behavioral health coverage guidelines – all under the watch of a special master.

In a Law360 article announcing the award, Ms. Reynolds commented, “We really achieved pretty much everything that we had set out to achieve in the case…We got a 10-year injunction that changed the way that UBH is making its determinations about medical necessity and appropriateness of treatment, and that we really think is going to improve access to care for a lot of people.”

Mr. Hufford added, “It's been a validation of what our entire approach has been in this practice, which is basically to try to use ERISA...to help patients and their providers push back against what we view as being the abuses of managed care…Historically there's been very little way to fight back, and I think we, with Wit and some of the other cases, have really been able to help turn the corner to provide a mechanism.”

The success of the team’s work is even more impressive because they are fighting opponents with virtually limitless resources. Few attorneys have been willing to take on mental health parity cases because they are so costly and difficult, but the Zuckerman Spaeder team is investing heavily in this fight and creating the possibility of fundamental change.

The attorneys have also delivered significant recent wins on behalf of health care providers, including several as part of their fight against a highly lucrative insurer billing practice called “cross-plan offsets.” Insurers have freely used this billing practice for more than 20 years – depriving out-of-network providers of billions of dollars in compensation – until the Zuckerman Spaeder team delivered several recent court wins, effectively chipping away at these systems.

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Kalie Walrath
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