Practice and Industry Groups

Russell S. Buhite

Shareholder Seattle

With 32 years of experience as a trial attorney, Russell Buhite is a nationally-recognized defense counsel representing life, health and disability insurance companies and benefit plans in litigation and rendering of client advice on both ERISA and non-ERISA matters pending in federal and state courts across the country.  He is a member of the life, health, and disability committee of Defense Research Institute (DRI) as well as a former national chair of the American Bar Association TIPS section’s Health and Disability Insurance Committee and of the Healthcare Reform Task Force.  He has published extensively in this area of law as a co-author on all editions of the ABA’s ERISA Survey of the Federal Circuits as well as for DRI’s “For the Defense” magazine, and other national publications, and has spoken widely on ERISA litigation issues.  He is a member of the Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel, composed of recognized leaders in the defense legal community worldwide, who have achieved professional distinction, following extensive client and peer review.  

An AV-Preeminent-rated attorney by Martindale-Hubbell, he has also been named in Best Lawyers in America - Litigation-ERISA (2011-Present), and selected as Lawyer of the Year for Seattle in this category for 2019.  He is admitted to practice by the state bars of Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Florida, and Missouri and in a number of federal district courts and courts of appeal.


  • Carr v. John Hancock Life Ins. Co. (U.S.A.), 2017 WL 2963446 (11th Cir. 2017). Summary judgment for defense granted in ERISA long-term care insurance matter upheld following appeal.
  • Smiley v. Smile Brands, 610 Fed. App’x 8 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, 135 S.Ct. 585(2015). Summary judgment for defense in ERISA penalty case upheld on appeal.
  • Kornacki v. Southern Farm Bureau Life Ins. Co., M.D. Fla., summary judgment for defendant in life insurance lapse case
  • Lawrence v. Pioneer Plastics, Middle District of Fla. ERISA matter. Bench trial verdict for defense.
  • Weiss v. Western-Southern Life Ins. Co., M.D. Fla., summary judgment for the defense in ERISA disability case.
  • McDaniel v. AIG Life Ins. Co., Hillsborough County Circuit Court. Jury verdict for defense in occupational accident disability case.
  • Roer v. John Hancock, S.D. FL., summary judgment for defendant in life insurance coverage case.

Professional Activities and Speeches

Professional Activities:

  • American Bar Association
  • Defense Research Institute, Life, Health and Disability Insurance Committee (1992 - Present)
  • SHRM
  • King County Bar Association
  • Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel
  • AIDA (Association Internationale de droit Assurances)


  • Ogletree Deakins Seminar - ''Pardon the Interruption: The Kitchen Sink Version'' - Seattle - October 18, 2017
  • Ogletree Deakins Seminar - ''The Local Leave (and Scheduling) Labyrinth'' - Seattle - October 28, 2016
  • Ogletree Deakins Seminar - ''Benefits 101: What Every HR Person Must Know to Avoid Creating Unnecessary Claims and Complications in the Administration of Employee Benefits'' - Seattle - October 28, 2016
  • American Bar Association’s 40th Annual TIPS Mid-Winter Symposium on Insurance and Employee Benefits - ''Supplementation of the Administrative Record with Additional Evidence in ERISA Litigation'' - Austin - January 16 - January 18, 2014
  • Dunkin Donuts Independent Franchisee Org - ''Effects of Healthcare Reform Law'' - Ft. Lauderdale - February 24, 2013
  • Sterling Education Programs - ''Employment Law Update'' - Tampa - August 23, 2011
  • ExecSense Webinar - ''What Insurance Lawyers Need To Know About New Long Term Care Insurance Products'' - Tampa - May 01, 2011
  • ExecSense WebinaR - ''What Insurance Lawyers Need To Know About The Impact Of State Of Florida v. U.S. Department Of Health & Human Services (N.D. FL. Jan. 31, 2011) On The Survival Of The Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act'' - Tampa - March 01, 2011
  • National Business Institute - ''Insurance Coverage Law in Florida'' - Tampa


Published Works


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