An accomplished litigator, Melissa leverages her experience in the healthcare industry for her corporate clients in lawsuits and arbitrations across the country. She achieves business-critical outcomes in a variety of matters, including multiparty litigation, complex contractual disputes and commercial fraud claims. Clients seek her focused guidance in the areas of healthcare litigation, insurance coverage, class action defense and appellate work.
A member of the Healthcare, Life Sciences & Pharmaceuticals team, Melissa represents health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and pharmacy benefits managers. In particular, she specializes in defending claims under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Among her industry accomplishments are these:
•Dismissal of a coverage lawsuit asserting ERISA claims against HMO. Decision was affirmed on appeal.
•Defeat of class certification and granting of summary judgment in lawsuit against pharmacy benefit manager asserting breach of fiduciary duty claims under ERISA.
•Summary judgment in a class action lawsuit, which a state court of appeals affirmed, upholding the right of HMOs to conduct subrogation recoveries on health benefits paid to federal employees.
Melissa regularly represents clients in insurance disputes. She assists companies in obtaining coverage under their insurance policies and defends insurance companies in coverage matters. In the area of class action lawsuits, Melissa defends clients against class action claims under the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA), the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), ERISA, and various other state and federal consumer claims.
Melissa is an appellate attorney who has briefed and argued cases in state and federal appellate courts nationwide, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and the Missouri and Illinois Courts of Appeals. She regularly advises attorneys on appellate matters and assists with drafting briefs.
Awards and Recognitions
Washington University Alumni Association Prize
•Obtained dismissal of lawsuit asserting ERISA claims against HMO stemming from coverage dispute, which was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit. Knieriem v. Group Health Plan Inc. 434 F.3d 1058 (Eighth Circuit, 2006).
•Won dismissal of lawsuit against HMO in a case involving subrogation of Medicaid recoveries, which was affirmed by the Missouri Court of Appeals. Dunevant v. Healthcare USA of Missouri LLC, No. 4:08cv702 (2008 U.S.Dist. LEXIS 66100).
•Obtained order defeating class certification and granting summary judgment in lawsuit against pharmacy benefit manager asserting breach of fiduciary duty claims under ERISA. In re Express Scripts Inc. PBM Litig., MDL No. 1672, WL 2952787 (E.D. Mo. 2008).
•Secured dismissal in federal district court of a class action lawsuit against AgriBank, the largest of five banks within the national Farm Credit System (FCS), in a suit brought by Arkansas land owners to quiet title on mineral rights retained by AgriBank. Federal appeals court affirmed the judgment, upholding AgriBank's right to retain mineral rights on acquired properties sold to private purchasers throughout the central United States. Nixon v. AgriBank, FCB, WL 4529894 (E.D. Ark. 2011); affirmed, WL 3023492 (Eighth Circuit 2012).
•Obtained order from U.S. Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit, dismissing plaintiff's appeal and upholding trial court's order granting summary judgment in favor of client and denying class certification. Inola v. Express Scripts Inc., WL 3033628 (Tenth Circuit 2010).
•Obtained order denying class certification in lawsuit brought by neighboring landowners against client, a manufacturer, alleging claims of nuisance and negligence. Dixon v. Continental Aluminum Co.
•Represented client in a complex dispute with its primary and excess insurance carriers over the payment of millions of dollars in defense costs and environmental remediation costs at 100 sites across the country. Representation included numerous jury trials that involved complex contractual, environmental and factual issues, resulting in multimillion-dollar verdicts for client. Olin Corp. v. Insurance Company of North America.
•Member of team that defended proprietary career college against consumer fraud claims brought by five former students seeking more than $10 million. After a five-week trial, the jury returned defense verdicts on four plaintiffs and awarded the fifth plaintiff less than $8,000 in damages. Drafted the appellate brief in which the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment in favor of client. Diane Walters, et al. v. Career Education Corp., et al. (Clay County Circuit Court, State of Missouri, Case No. 07CY-CV07481).
•Obtained summary judgment on class action claims asserted against a law firm under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
•Resolved arbitration of complex disputes arising from risk contracts between managed-care clients and integrated hospital network.