Concluding an administrative, then court fight across nearly 20 years, disabled Hollywood stuntwoman Leslie Hoffman — stunt double for the Queen Elizabeth character in Naked Gun, among many other credits — came to a $125,000 settlement with the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan. The pension plan lawsuit was won in court in 2019, when a judge finally ruled in Hoffman’s favor.
The dispute over her disability claim was in U.S. District Court in California for years, with multiple detours to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Concussion Inc. has been following it since 2011 (see links to past coverage below).
Hoffman was disabled by traumatic brain and physical injuries on the job. Shamefully, her own union’s pension and health plans deployed scorched-earth tactics to deflect her legitimate claim. The most disgraceful defense was the false contention that Hoffman continued to find work even after she filed for disability. As the SAG Pension and Health Plan full well knew, she only collected small checks for residuals for past work.
Due to the vagaries of the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), Hoffman was not in position to seek punitive damages. Even so, we are issuing summary judgment in the court of public opinion, and declaring the settlement a victory for her.
Praise is due Hoffman’s tireless attorney, Charles Fleishman, whom Hoffman called “a miracle worker.” Fleishman deferred his own retirement to see the case through to the end. He told the entertainment news site Deadline: “Leslie was the victim of a judicial system that failed. The first District Court judge dismissed the case despite the law. The second one refused to hear the case for no reason at all, and the third judge made up a reason to refuse to hear it. And the Ninth Circuit reversed all three of them.”
Hoffman, now 66 years old, herself summed up to us: “ERISA was supposed to help employees. Instead, it has been repeatedly used by the employers to make the victim suffer even more. We were David fighting Goliath and we won.”.