Payne & Fears LLP offers a full range of business and litigation services to its clients in three primary practice groups: Labor and Employment, Business Litigation, and Insurance Coverage. Across these practice areas, we represent all types of clients, from multi-national corporations to emerging tech startups to individual insurance policyholders.

Practice Areas



  • Payne & Fears LLP has represented me and my company for many years. It is an excellent law firm with the highest standards. I have worked with hundreds of attorneys in my career. I get results with Payne & Fears LLP.

    - Small Business Owner
  • Your support at Payne and Fears is top rate and it is such a pleasure to work with someone who understands business and offers a conservative, yet aggressive approach – not very easy but something that you seem to demonstrate well!  You are always my first choice of outside counsel.

    - Senior Vice President, Human Resources, International Consumer Goods Company
  • The attorneys at Payne & Fears have the unique ability to size up complex matters and provide well-reasoned solutions. Their knowledge of the law and depth of experience, coupled with the responsive and personal service they provide, all contribute to a strong and valued relationship with our organization.

    - Vice-President of Labor, Publically Traded Silicon Valley Technology Company
  • I hire Payne & Fears LLP because of certainty--certainty in my receipt of value, in its strategic approach to problem solving, in its integrity of billing, in its candor when evaluating my cases, in its creativity while searching for an economical and fair resolution and in its attorneys’ tenacity throughout the ensuing battle. In a world of unknowns, I value constancy in characteristics that matter most. Payne & Fears LLP delivers that constancy.

    - Chief Litigation Officer, Fortune 500 Company


Aug 16

Statewide PAGA Claim Eliminated

Payne & Fears obtained an order striking the representative PAGA claims from a statewide wage-and-hour action, thus reducing size of the case from over 250,000 members to a mere handful of individual claims.

Five former employees sued Payne & Fears’ client, a large multistate retailer, for meal and rest period violations and related causes of action.  Plaintiffs sought to certify a class of over 250,000 current and former employees, and also sought to maintain claims for PAGA penalties on behalf of the same population.  The court denied class certification on plaintiffs’ direct statutory claim for rest period premiums, but certified a “meal period class” under Business & Professions Code section 17200.  However, the court then granted summary adjudication – on a class basis – against the plaintiffs on the ground that Section 17200 did not provide a remedy under the circumstances alleged.  Payne & Fears then moved to strike the PAGA claims on the grounds that they were unmanageable, unsupported by evidence in the plaintiffs’ trial plan, and barred by the statute of limitations.  The court granted the motion and dismissed the representative claims, leaving the plaintiffs with only their individual causes of action. 

Jim Payne, Jeff Brown and Ray Boggess handled the defense of the case.

Practice areas: Labor and Employment Litigation, Wage and Hour Litigation, Class Action Defense

Attorneys: James L. Payne, Jeffrey K. Brown , Ray E. Boggess

Jul 10

Court Denies De Novo Review in Favor of Request for Abuse of Discretion Standard

In a case brought in federal court under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) against our client, a national retailer, and its group health insurance plan for denial of an expensive surgery as not medically necessary, the court ordered briefing on the appropriate standard of court review. In ERISA cases, the standard of review is very important to determine whether the court will defer to the plan’s determination. Plaintiff filed a motion arguing for de novo review based on a California Insurance Code section he claimed negated the plan’s language requiring abuse of discretion review, citing two Central District court decisions in support. In opposition, Payne & Fears argued that the Insurance Code section was preempted with respect to the self-funded plan, distinguishing the two district court decisions and citing a conflicting decision from another Central District court.

On this issue which is undecided in the Ninth Circuit, the district court rejected plaintiff’s request for de novo review of the plan’s decision to deny coverage for his surgery. Instead, the court adopted the abuse of discretion standard requested by the plan, holding that the Insurance Code section was preempted with respect to the self-funded plan. The court also sided with the one case in the Central District so holding, and distinguished the two other Central District cases that decided otherwise.

Eric C. Sohlgren is defending the case on behalf of the plan and prepared the opposition briefing.

Practice areas: Labor and Employment Litigation, ERISA Litigation

Attorneys: Andrew K. Haeffele, Eric C. Sohlgren