I really can't recall a time when work did not occupy an important part of my life.  At the age of 12, I was picking cotton in rural Southeastern Missouri for 3 cents a pound.  (Child labor laws?  What were those?).  I never quite made it to 100 lbs. a day, usually coming in at between 85 and 90 lbs.  ($2.50 a day for 8 hours work in the hot sun may not sound like much, but when your "allowance" is 25 cents a week, it was a bloody fortune).  Later on, when I was a couple years older, I mowed lawns for $1.25 each. I could do two lawns after school each day, earning as much in two hours as I had made in a day of picking cotton.  (At that point, I was beginning to understand that while all labor is valuable, it is not all valued equally.)  Then, came my late teenage summer career of painting houses and cleaning pools.  By that time, the work ethic had stuck.


After graduating from the University of Missouri, Columbia in 1974, I went to work for the 22nd Judicial Circuit of Missouri in St. Louis, assigned to the Juvenile Division, where I worked for the next 7 years.  I started in the Juvenile Detention Center as a unit worker and worked my way up to the position of Deputy Juvenile Officer.  I eventually transferred to the Booking Unit working the night shift, which allowed me to attend law school during the daytime.


I attended Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, receiving my Juris Doctorate degree in 1981. During my third year of law school I participated in an advanced clinical program, working part time prosecuting criminal cases at the Office of the Circuit Attorney.  (Sleep, what was that?).  The day after graduation I immediately headed for California with law degree in hand, a whopping student loan of $15,000 (seemed like a lot at the time) and practically nothing in the bank.  I was admitted to practice law in California in 1982.  I married my beautiful wife, Janet Patricia Culligan (just ever so slightly Irish and born on St. Patrick's Day to boot), the very next year and she’s still by my side today, after 38 years.  Our son, Patrick, is now pursuing a legal career of his own.


From 1981, (prior to passing the bar exam) through 1982, I worked for American Benefits Administrators, an ERISA Plan Administrator.  American Benefits administered what was at that time the largest multiple employer trust ("MET") ERISA health plan in California.  I worked there first as a liaison between corporate management and outside legal counsel and ultimately as in-house counsel.  During that period of time, I worked with some of the most knowledgeable ERISA attorneys in California, including a former Chief Counsel, for the California Department of Insurance, who once joked that my initiation into the world of ERISA was akin to a "baptism by fire".   True enough, but my work for American Benefits gave me a unique opportunity to learn the business of insurance and particularly the strange field of ERISA from the inside-out and from the bottom-up.  It allowed me to work on a daily basis with nationally known medical consultants, as well as individuals, who were pioneering some rather novel managed care concepts at the time, such as Preferred Provider Organizations.  It also brought me in contact with insurance company executives and state regulatory officials throughout the United States. 


By 1983 I had started my own private law practice.  Both as in-house counsel and in private practice, I have drafted ERISA plan documents, including comprehensive plan descriptions, summary plan descriptions, and administrative services agreements.  I have also reviewed and approved marketing brochures and I have participated in drafting a claims procedures manual. I have represented ERISA plans, medical providers and plan participants, handling benefit claims disputes through all levels of administrative review, arbitration, litigation in federal court and before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. I have litigated numerous benefit claims disputes, arising under ERISA plans and private insurance plans.  I have also handled hundreds of cases, where I obtained  reversals of benefit denials at the administrative appeal stage and litigation was not necessary.


Over the past 37 years, I have successfully handled hundreds of cases involving insurance and ERISA benefit claims.  For the past 27 years, my practice has been primarily limited to representing hard-working people, whose disability claims have been wrongfully denied by insurance companies and self-funded plans. I have pursued such claims against practically every major insurer and benefit plan in the United States, including Aetna, The Hartford, Standard Insurance Co., Reliance Standard Insurance Company, Unum-Provident, CIGNA (LINA), Prudential, MetLife, Liberty Mutual, GEGLAC, Genworth, Sun Life Insurance Co., AIG, The Travelers Insurance Company, Anthem Blue Cross of California, Central Reserve Life Insurance Co., Continental Airlines, Inc., CorpHealth, CMS – Illinois,  Employers Health Insurance, Fortis Benefits Insurance Co., Ernst & Young, E*Trade Group, Inc., FHP, GenCorp, Inc.,  Group Health Inc. (GHI), HealthNet, HealthAmerica Pennsylvania, Inc. Home Depot,  Jefferson Pilot Insurance Company, JC Penney Insurance Co., Medical Mutual of Ohio, Magellan, Mutual of New York, Northrup Grumman,  Pacificare, Providian Financial, Principal Financial Group, ReliaStar Financial Corporation, Sierra Health and Life, Washington National, United Parcel Service, United Healthcare / United Behavioral Health, Unisys, Value Options, Inc., Voluntary Plan Administrators, Inc. (VPA), and Hewlett-Packard.

If there is one thing that my ERISA disability practice has taught me, it's that practically all of my clients share the same work ethic that I have.  They truly want to return to work, but because of physical limitations beyond their control, they can't.  This leads to frustration and very often depression.  While I cannot make disabilities go away, I can make insurance companies pay what they owe and that can lighten the financial (and hopefully some of the emotional) burden.

Honors / Recognition:  

Peer Review Rating AV® Preeminent™ by Martindale-Hubbell since 2002:  AV is the highest rating achievable.  An AV Peer Review Rating  shows that a lawyer has reached the height of professional excellence. He or she has usually practiced law for many years, and is recognized for the highest levels of skill and integrity.  Martindale-Hubbell is the facilitator of a peer review rating process. Ratings reflect the confidential opinions of members of the Bar and the Judiciary.

Martindale-Hubbell Ratings fall into two categories - legal ability and general ethical standards.  Questions about the Peer Review Ratings system can be sent by email to ratings@martindale. com or by mail to: Peer Review Rating Services, LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell,  121 Chanlon Road, New Providence, NJ 07974.

Ranked as one of  "The Inland Empire's Best Lawyers",  Area of Practice: Employee Benefits, Inland Empire Magazine.

ERISA Litigation Experience:

For every ERISA case I’ve litigated, I’ve probably resolved ten or more without the need for litigation.   I have litigated (or arbitrated) the following ERISA-benefit cases: 


Arturo Aguirre vs. Steelcase, Inc., CV-95-5894; 


Oasis Treatment Center, Inc. vs. The Travelers Insurance Co.  (Related Cases) Case Nos: SACV 97-799 and SACV 97-800 (9th Cir. Case Nos:  99-55225 and 99-55226);  


Sally Haithman vs. Unisys Corporation,  CV 98-5800; 


Rickey Thomas Sebo v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, Allstate Long Term Disability Plan, CV 99-10770; (9th Cir. Case No. 00-55765);  


Spencer Recovery Centers, Inc., vs. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (Related Cases) Case Nos: SACV 00-786, SACV 00-787, SACV 00-788;  


Rader Programs, Inc. vs. Honda of America Mfg., Inc. CV 00-00041;  


Spencer Recovery Centers, Inc. vs. Aetna US Healthcare, CV 01-6684;  


Spencer Recovery Centers, Inc., vs. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (Related Cases) Case Nos:  CV  01-6687, CV 01-6689, CV 016692; 


Pacific Shores Hospital vs. Atlas Administrators, Inc., CV-01-1948;  


Lonna J. Lundquist-Smith vs. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and Bank Of America Corporation Long-Term Disability Insurance Plan,  CV 01 2953;   


Pacific Shores Hospital v. Medical Mutual of Ohio (Related Cases) Case Nos: CV 02-4273 and CV 02-4275;  


Spencer Recovery Centers, Inc., vs. Eval Company of America Medical Plan;  CV 02-4270;  Spencer Recovery Centers, Inc., vs. Marukyo U.S.A., Inc. Health Plan, CV 02-4272 ((Related Cases) 9th Cir. Case Nos.  08-55469 and 08-55478);  


James Cline v. Hartford Life Insurance Co., SACV 03-172 DOC;  (in association with Law Offices of Bohm Francis Kegel & Aguilera, LLP);  


Sharon Ray vs. Long Term Disability Plan of Tenet Healthcare Corporation SACV-04-925;


Janine M. Gualderon  vs. Long Term Disability Plan of Guild, Inc. CV 04-1049;  


June Bohara vs. Backus Hospital Medical Benefit Plan. 390 F. Supp. 2nd 957 (C.D. Cal. 2005);  


Anthony Anatra vs. Long Term Disability Plan of Lumileds Lighting,  CV 05-02288 RS;


Mark Maneval vs. Long Term Disability Plan of Devonshire Services Group, Inc., CV 05-02943 CBM;


Richard Hineman v. Long Term Disability Plan of E*Trade Group, Inc. CV 06-1527;  (9th Cir. Case No. 07-55079);


Pacific Shores Hospital vs. Northrup Grumman Medical Plan, CV 07-4569;


Pacific Shores Hospital vs. Continental Airlines, Inc., Welfare Benefit Plan CV 07-06563;


Pacific Shores Hospital vs. Ernst & Young  Medical Plan CV 08-5798;


Pacific Shores Hospital vs. Blue Cross of California AAA Case No: 72-187-00238-08;


Pacific Shores Hospital vs. Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of Indiana AAA Case No: 72-187-00608-09;


Christel Reagan vs. RMC Pacific Materials Long Term Disability Plan  CV 09-00739;


Pacific Shores Hospital vs. C & I Engineering, Inc. Medical Plan  CV 09-4365;  


Pacific Shores Hospital vs. Ryan’s All-Glass, Inc. Medical Plan, CV 09-5445;  


Pacific Shores Hospital v. Janney, Montgomery, Scott, LLC Health And Welfare Plan, CV 09-7887;  


Elizabeth Wilson vs. Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.  Long Term Disability Plan, CV 10 3794;


Pacific Shores Hospital v. Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey AAA Case No: 72 187 01078 10;


Robert Collins v. Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston, CV 12-05990;


Sheri Nell v. Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston, EDCV 13-00312; 


Adel F. Samaan, M.D. vs. Anthem Blue Cross, AAA Case No: 72 187 00544-13;


Rosanna Sta. Ana vs. Prudential Insurance Company of America, EDCV15-02520;


Dean Taylor v. Life Insurance Company of North America, aka LINA, dba CIGNA, CV16-00404; Marc Miller v. Aetna Insurance Company, 8:16-cv-01381;


Corinne Lincoln-Pinheiro v. Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston, 8:17-cv-02219;


Robert Ligocki v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company, Case No: 8:18-cv-00113;


Kaloyan Kostadinov v. The Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company, Case No: 8:20-cv-01758.

More About the Attorney - Michael A. McKuin

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ERISA Disability Lawyer