ERISA only proscribed statutes of limitations for claims alleging breach of fiduciary duty. The statute in those cases is 6 years from the alleged act or omission, or 3 years after the claimant had actual knowledge of the claim. What exactly the claimant needs to have had knowledge of differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For all other claims made under ERISA (such a § 502(a)(1)(B) claim for benefits under the terms of the plan), ERISA provided no statute of limitations, and courts will look to the most analogous state statute of limitations in the appropriate jurisdiction. For a benefit claim, this will usually be a statute for breach of a written contract. However, courts have uniformly held plans are free to further limit that period, provided it is disclosed to participants, and they often do. These limitations still must provide you with a reasonable amount of time, though. That self-imposed limitations period, however, must still be reasonable to be legal. The summary plan description should state how much time you have to submit a claim, and how much time you have to bring an action in court. Call us if you need to know if the limitations period is likely to be upheld.
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