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Near Riot Breaks Out at ERISA Trial, Injuring Six

A courtroom fracas between two ERISA attorneys in Indianapolis erupted into a near riot as ERISA plan administrators in the court’s gallery began throwing punches, chairs, and bottles, apparently in reaction to harsh defense cross-examination about proper fiduciary duties. The fight spilled out of the courtroom and into a hall, where sequestered witnesses joined in by taunting plan administrators with insults about using incorrect benefit designation forms.

Sheriff deputies and local police finally quelled the disturbance after using tear gas and other anti-riot dispersants, leaving six people injured. Three of the attorneys in the case received treatment at the scene, while three plan administrators were taken to a local hospital, where they are currently listed in stable condition.

It was the third courthouse brawl in the last three months involving an ERISA case, highlighting the inherent dangers involved for attorneys in doing ERISA work. Three attorneys in July engaged in a prolonged courtroom fight involving improvised shivs and sharpened pork chop bones that had been smuggled into the courthouse. All three attorneys received serious injuries but have since recovered and are back to practicing ERISA law.

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