ERISA-Second Circuit Rules That Plaintiff’s Claim for Plan Documents is Time Barred

In Brown v. Rawlings Financial Services, LLC, Docket No. 16-3748 (2nd Circuit 2017), a participant in a healthcare benefit plan covered by ERISA requested documents pertaining to her plan but did not receive them promptly. She sought statutory damages pursuant to ERISA Section 502(c)(1), which imposes personal liability on ERISA plan administrators that fail to provide plan documents to participants within thirty days of a request. On motion, the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut dismissed the suit as untimely, applying Connecticut’s one-year statute of limitations for actions to recover civil forfeitures, and the plaintiff failing to file her claim within the one-year period.

Since ERISA does not specify a statute of limitations for Section 502(c)(1) claims, courts apply the state statute of limitations that is the nearest analogue. On appeal, Brown argued that the proper statute of limitations is either Connecticut’s six-year statute of limitations for breach of contract, or the three-year statute of limitations for violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (“CUTPA”) and the Connecticut Unfair Insurance Practices Act (“CUIPA”).

Upon reviewing the case, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals (the “Court”) said that it agreed with the district court that Connecticut’s civil forfeiture statute of limitations (with its one year filing period) provides the appropriate limitations period, and because the plaintiff filed her complaint more than one year after her claim accrued, the Court affirmed the district court’s dismissal.

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