Melanie J. Garner is of counsel to the firm and has over 18 years of experience forcefully advocating on behalf of her clients in state and federal courts throughout the country. She has significant experience litigating various mass tort and personal injury matters, as well as handling “qui tam” whistleblower cases and litigating ERISA employee benefits claims. Since 2008, Melanie has primarily represented plaintiffs and their family members helping them to recover millions of dollars in ERISA employee benefits, asbestos, mass tort, personal injury, and other cases in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and elsewhere.
ERISA Employee Benefits, Insurance and Employment Litigation
Since joining The Garner Firm, Ltd. in early 2020, a large portion of Melanie’s practice has involved representing employees in ERISA claims and litigation. This typically involves appealing the decisions of plan administrators, insurers, and other claim fiduciaries denying or terminating benefits made available to employees through their jobs, such as short-term disability (STD) benefits, long-term disability (LTD) benefits, life insurance, pensions, and other retirement benefits, and litigating these claims against insurance companies, employers, and plan fiduciaries. These claims often involve individual employees, but they may also involve class actions brought on behalf of a number of employees and plan participants who have been similarly harmed by a defendant’s breaches of fiduciary duty and other wrongdoing.
Melanie has also represented plaintiffs in disputes and litigation against insurance companies involving claims of bad faith and breach of contract for denying or terminating benefits under individual disability insurance (IDI) policies often purchased by doctors, lawyers, and other professionals with specialized training in the event they become disabled and unable to perform the duties of their own occupation during their career.
In addition, Melanie has represented employees in employment discrimination and FLSA wage and hour cases brought against their employers.
Asbestos, Mass Tort, and Personal Injury Litigation
Throughout her career, a large portion of Melanie’s practice has included representing mesothelioma victims, including those with occupational and other exposures to asbestos. In addition, she has litigated cases involving products liability and exposures to other toxic chemicals, including benzene and lead paint, class actions and other mass tort claims, including those involving defective medical devices. Melanie has also litigated various other types of personal injury actions on behalf of those injured through the negligence or intentional conduct of others, including premises liability, motor vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, and nursing home abuse cases. In addition to recovering millions of dollars on behalf of her clients, her work has held defendants, including many large corporations and employers, accountable for their wrongful conduct.
Football Concussion Claims and Litigation
Melanie has also represented former professional and college football players suffering from catastrophic injuries, disabilities, latent brain disease and other cognitive impairments, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy (“CTE”). She has pursued these claims as a part of the NFL Concussion Litigation Settlement and has also litigated individual lawsuits against the NCAA and private universities on behalf of former professional and student athletes and their family members.
Qui Tam Whistleblower Litigation
Melanie also has experience representing workers who “blew the whistle” and reported Medicare and other fraud conducted by their employers, including pharmaceutical companies and government contractors, against federal and state governments. These cases, called “qui tam” cases, permit an employee who has not participated in the fraud to bring a lawsuit on behalf of the government in order to recover on its behalf. Individuals who bring these suits are referred to as “relators,” and, in certain situations, they are entitled to a share of the government’s recovery.
Melanie was nominated and selected by her peers as a Pennsylvania Super Lawyers Rising Star in 2018 and 2019, and as Super Lawyer in 2020, 2021, and 2022.
Outside of the Office
Since 2015, Melanie has served on the Board of Governors for the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, she is the immediate past Chair of its Women Leaders Section, as well as a member of the Civil Rights Section, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Section, Employment Law Section, and Insurance Bad Faith Section. Melanie is Co-Chair of the Publications Committee for the American Association for Justice’s Women Lawyers Caucus, and is Treasurer of the American Association for Justice’s ERISA Benefits Litigation Group. She is also a member of the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association and the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Employee Benefits Committee and Women in the Profession Committee. Since 2020, Melanie has been a member of the Board of Directors of Justice for Our Neighbors of the Delaware Valley, Inc., a non-profit providing pro bono and low cost immigration legal services to immigrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers in the Greater Delaware Valley area, and she is Chair of its Nominating and Personnel Committee. Melanie is a member of the American Bar Foundation and the American Bar Association’s Labor and Employment Section’s Employee Benefits Committee, Litigation Section’s Woman Advocate Committee, and Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section’s Employee Benefits Committee. She is also a Chapter Editor for the “Employee Benefits Law” treatise published by Bloomberg Law.
Video: Winning Cases for Clients is Personal For Me
Fellow of the American Bar Foundation
Pennsylvania Association for Justice
- Member, Board of Governors
- Civil Rights Section, Diversity Equity & Inclusion Section, Employment Law Section, and Insurance and Bad Faith Section
- Immediate Past Chair, Women Leaders Section
American Association for Justice
- ERISA Benefits Litigation Group, Treasurer
- Women Trial Lawyers’ Caucus, Publications Committee Co-Chair
Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association
Philadelphia Bar Association
- Employee Benefits Committee
- Women in the Profession Committee
American Bar Association
- Labor and Employment Section, Employee Benefits Committee
- Section of Litigation, The Woman Advocate Committee
- Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section, Employee Benefits Committee
- “Lunch & Learn: Family Leave,” American Association for Justice Women Trial Lawyers Caucus, January 2023
- “The Sonny Banks Health and Wellness Hour” Radio Show, Guest Speaker Discussing ERISA benefits claims, May 2022
- “Mass Torts: What’s Hot and What’s Not in 2020,” Pennsylvania Association for Justice, Winter Member Meeting, Bethelehem, Pennsylvania, January 2020
- “Jurisdictional Updates,” Perrin Mid-Atlantic Asbestos Conference, Wilmington, Delaware, June 2019
- “Finding and Retaining Women Lawyers,” Women’s Breakfast, Perrin Mid-Atlantic Asbestos Conference, Wilmington, Delaware, June 2019
- “The ABCs of Complex Litigation: Asbestos, Benzene CRPS and More,” Legal Intelligencer CLE, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, October 2016
- “Social Media Evidence: Finding It, Getting It and Using It,” Pennsylvania Association for Justice 34th Annual Auto Law Conference, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 2016
- “Off the Beaten Path – The Rules of Successful Qui Tam Litigation,” New Jersey Association for Justice Mass Tort – Boardwalk Seminar 2016, Atlantic City, New Jersey, April 2016