Sunday, February 7, 2010

Eleventh Circuit Affirms Judgment Based Upon Statute of Limitations In ERISA LTD Case

The Eleventh Circuit had two decisions relating to the statute of limitation in claims for long term disability benefits under ERISA. In Knight v. Unum Provident Insurance Co. (09-13653), the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the entry of a summary judgment against Unum based upon the plaintiff's failure to file her lawsuit within the controlling statute of limitation. The brief facts were provided by the court as follows:
The policy stated that a policyholder could commence “legal action regarding [a] claim 60 days after proof of claim has been given and up to 3 years from the time proof of claim is required, unless otherwise provided under federal law.” Knight received short term disability benefits for her absences from work caused byallergic reactions to latex between October 2001 and May 2002. In June 2002, Knight’s claim was transferred to Unum’s long term disability division. On September 30, 2002, Unum denied Knight long term disability benefits beyond June 25, 2002. Knight appealed and, on December 13, 2002, Unum extended Knight’s benefits to December 5, 2002. Knight did not challenge Unum’s decision.
In 2005, Unum notified Knight that she could fill out a form for a reassessment of her long term disability claim.  "On October 17, 2006, Unum notified Knight that she was entitled to long term disability benefits between December 6, 2002, and July 24, 2003."....."On September 17, 2008, Knight filed a complaint that Unum had “breach[ed] [its] fiduciary duty and impair[ed] the obligation of contract under the Employment Retirement Income Security Act” by denying her long term disability benefits after July 24, 2003."

The Eleventh Circuit agreed with the district court that the complaint was untimely:
The district court ruled that Knight commenced her action to recover unpaid benefits after the period of limitation had expired.
Knight argues that her complaint was timely, but we disagree. Knight’s policy imposed a three-year statute of limitation for her to file an a complaint about the denial of disability benefits, and Knight does not argue that period of time is unreasonable. See Northlake Reg’l Med. Ctr. v. Waffle House Sys. Employee Benefit Plan, 160 F.3d 1301, 1303–04 (11th Cir. 1998). Knight commenced her action after the statute of limitation expired.
In Ehmann v. Continental Casualty Company (09-11615), the Eleventh Circuit reversed the grant of summary judgment to Ehmann because the statute of limitation had expired when the suit was filed.  The court noted that it did not matter if the contractual language controlled or a longer statutory limitatio period.  Either way, the deadline had been missed.


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