Disabled Stuntwoman Leslie Hoffman’s Fight With the Screen Actors Guild’s Pension Fund Drags Into Its Second Decade in Court

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by Irvin Muchnick

In Concussion Inc.’s more than a decade of coverage of under-the-radar cases of the sports and entertainment industries’ casual disregard for the health and safety of their workers, no story has a longer tail than that of Leslie Hoffman, a long-time and now long-disabled movie stuntwoman. Most famously, Hoffman was the stunt double for the Queen Elizabeth character whom Leslie Nielsen’s Sergeant Frank Drebin knocked away from the harm of incoming musket fire in the 1988 movie Naked Gun.

The Hoffman legal saga started with the lack of support from her so-called union, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and its Pension and Health Plan, for a disability claim stemming from continuing physical trauma and concussion injuries from her stunt work.

Where we left off, nearly a year and a half ago, a judge in U.S. District Court in California had ordered the guild’s pension plan to reconsider its decision to deny Hoffman benefits. Among other scorched-earth tactics, the plan has been trying to claw back from her approximately $125,000 previously paid out across many years — plus reimbursement of six figures in attorney fees.

The Pension and Health Plan argues that Hoffman really wasn’t disabled because she was continuing to seek and accept work. However, the record shows that in the last two decades-plus, Hoffman has received a single check, in the amount of $332.86, for a single movie performance back in the 1990s. This was a SAG contract upgrade, not new work. Yet the plan proceeded to strip her of the disability pension payments she had been receiving since 2002.

Court rulings compelled the restoration of Hoffman’s pension from 2015 through 2019, but did nothing for reimbursing her health expenses. 

Various technical aspects of this matter have bounced back and forth from district court to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Most recently, the appellate court overturned a lower court decision to throw out Hoffman’s lawsuit, so the matter has been remanded to the lower court for a third time.

Below are chronological links to our stories about this seemingly interminable fight. These pieces, in turn, contain links to the sporadic, but admirably persistent, accounts at places like the entertainment trade site Deadline.

“Hollywood Stuntwoman Activist’s Fight With the Screen Actors Guild,” July 31, 2011, https://concussioninc.net/?p=4337

“Update on Hollywood Stuntwoman Leslie Hoffman’s Disability Case,” July 10, 2015, https://concussioninc.net/?p=10177

“Brain-Injured Hollywood Stuntwoman Leslie Hoffman’s Ongoing Fight With the Screen Actors Guild Is (Again) in the Hands of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals,” April 16, 2018, https://concussioninc.net/?p=12825

“Movie Stunt Legend Leslie Hoffman Wins Another Court Round Against the Screen Actors Guild. Will SAG Finally Take Care of Her?”, November 10, 2019, https://concussioninc.net/?p=14061

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Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick