In Heimeshoff v. Hartford Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 134 S.Ct. 604 (2013), the Supreme Court held that an ERISA plan’s contractual limitations period can be enforced, so long as the claimant has a reasonable time after exhausting his or her administrative remedies to file suit. In other words, a plan’s language can shorten the limitations period and can make the shorter limitations period start to run before the administrative claim denial that accrues the claim, if the participant still has a reasonable period to file suit after the claim is denied.
A contractual limitations period in an ERISA disability benefits plan that required participants to bring suit within three years after “proof of loss is due” is enforceable, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled unanimously. Heimeshoff v. Hartford Life & Accident Ins. Co. et al., 134 S.Ct. 604, 187 L. Ed. 2d 529 (2013). Whether and under what circumstances an otherwise applicable statute of limitations can be contractually shortened where a claim for benefits is made under a plan subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 has divided the courts of appeals for years.
443 (3rd Cir. 2001); Craig v. Pillsbury Non-Qualified Pension Plan, 458 F.3d 748, 752 (8th Cir. 2006)  Johnson v. State Mutual Life Assurance Co. of America, 942 F.2d 1260, 1261-63 (8th Cir. 1992). 134 S. Ct. 604, 610 (2013)  Tumiello v. Aetna Life Insurance Company, 2014 WL 572367(S.D. N.Y. 2/14/2014) (nine month limitations period upheld; Lundsten v. Creative Community Living Services, Inc. Long Term Disability Plan, 2015 WL 1143114 (E.D. Wis. 3/13/2015) (six month limitations period upheld).
See Heimeshoff v. Hartford Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 134 S. Ct. 604, 610 (2013) (finding that a contractual limitations period need only be “reasonable” to be enforceable). In the absence of a contractual limitations period, or if the parties have expressly agreed to incorporate a state limitation period into a regulated plan, courts will generally apply the most analogous state statute of limitations.
However, some plans fill the void with contractual limitations. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court held, in Heimeshoff v. Hartford Life & Accident Ins. Co., 134 S.Ct. 604 (2013), that reasonable contractual limitations periods in ERISA-governed plans are valid and enforceable. Since Heimeshoff, numerous courts have addressed residual issues, such as what event will trigger a contractual limitations period or in the absence of a contractual limitations provision, statutory limitations.
The EEOC wins a second opportunity to advance claims on behalf of a class of female victims of harassment, in the wake of Mach Mining, LLC v. EEOC, 135 S. Ct. 1645 (2015).Santana-Diaz v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., No. 15-1273 (1st Cir. Mar. 14, 2016): The Supreme Court held several terms ago in Heimeshoff v. Hartford Life & Accident Ins. Co., 134 S. Ct. 604, 610 (2013), that an ERISA plan could include contractual limitations period, "even one that starts to run before the cause of action accrues, as long as the period is reasonable."In this case, a participant in a long-term disability plan - sponsored by Shell Chemical in Puerto Rico and managed by MetLife - filed a year-and-a-half too late on a claim for benefits under the policy's three-year limitations period.
and Inv. Plan, 555 U.S. 285 (2009) (regarding payments to named beneficiaries); McCutchen(cited in footnote 1, above)(regarding an insurance company's right to reimbursement out of a participant's recovery from third parties); Heimeshoff v. Hartford Life & Accident Ins., 134 S. Ct. 604 (2013) (regarding a plan's express limitation on actions). It is noted that Montanile comes at a busy time for the Court when it comes to ERISA matters, being the first of no less than three cases with potential ERISA ramifications that the Court is deciding in its current Term. See Liberty Mutual Ins. Co. v Donegan, 746 F. 3d 497 (2nd Cir. 2014), cert.
This case is significant because it imposes a procedural requirement in order to enforce a plan-imposed limitations period (i.e., that denial letters must notify the plaintiff of the time to file a lawsuit, at least if the plan imposes a limitations period, even if the plaintiff is otherwise aware of that requirement). Generally speaking, courts have enforced such limitations periods and their use has been largely approved by the Supreme Court, most recently in Heimeshoff v. Hartford Life & Accident Insurance Co., 134 S. Ct. 604 (2013). While time will tell whether there will be widespread adoption of a strict rule prohibiting enforcement of plan limitations periods if those limitations deadlines are not mentioned in denial letters, even if the plaintiff is aware of the deadline, this must at least be viewed as the rule in the Third Circuit.
Also, the Sixth Circuit relied on the Fourth Circuit’s decision in White v. Sun Life Assurance Co. of Canada, 488 F.3d 240, 247 n.2 (4th Cir. 2007). But White was abrogated by the Supreme Court’s decision in Heimeshoff v. HartfordLife & Accident Ins. Co., 134 S. Ct. 604, 610 (2013). Finally, it is debatable whether a denial letter must include the plan’s limitation period in the first instance.
And retirement plans can include the same kind of language, with the exception of anti-assignment provisions. Contractual Limitations PeriodsIn Heimeshoff v. Hartford Life & Accident Ins. Co., 134 S. Ct. 604 (2013), the Supreme Court held that “[a]bsent a controlling statute to the contrary, a participant and a plan may agree by contract to a particular limitations period, even one that starts to run before the cause of action accrues, as long as the period is reasonable.” In the wake of this important decision, many employers have moved to include contractual limitations periods in the terms of their benefit plans and SPDs, and several courts have enforced limitations periods that began running prior to the conclusion of the plan’s internal administrative appeals period.