Stay Awake In ERISA

There is no way an ERISA claimant can ease up on the pressure while pursuing an LTD claim, hoping that matters will take care of themselves. Despite setbacks and claim denials, the claimant must be certain to meet all time constraints required by the terms of ERISA plan documents, insurance policies and rules and regulations.

This overriding importance of claimant conduct was reemphasized in the recent case of Engleson v. Unum,2013 WL 3336741 CA 6 (Ohio) (NO. 21-4049), in which a disability case with a long history was finally dismissed because the plaintiff failed to file an appeal within the 3-year period permitted in his ERISA plan.

Despite having filed two denial appeals in 2001 with Unum, Mr. Engleson’s claim remained dormant until 2008 when he felt his condition became so severe that he refiled for LTD benefits. He wanted the Court to consider his claim as an appeal of the prior denials which Unum issued in 2001, declaring that benefits had been wrongfully denied at that time. He further alleged that he was not given a full and fair review of his claim in 2001.

The District Court dismissed his suit holding that the 3-year contractual limitation had expired and he could not bring such a suit.

On appeal Mr, Engleson claimed he was entitled a ruling that the contractual limit should be tolled under Cigna v. Amara, 131 S. Ct. 1866 (2011), but the appellate court disagreed, finding no facts upon which to consider tolling the 3-year time limit on appeals.

To illustrate its point, the Court reviewed the facts in  Calanderia v.Orthobiologics, 661 F3d 675 (C.A.1 Puerto Rico) 2011), a case in which the claimant actively twice asked for and received copies of the ERISA plan documents to which he was subject. At the time he received them the plan had no time limit on filing a suit after a denial.

A week after the last time the plan was disclosed to Mr. Calandria, the plan was changed to require that a claim to the court be filed within one year of the date of occurrence. Plaintiff had received no notice of this change from his employer and reasonably believed that the statute of limitations on his claim was 15 years.

Since this policyholder had tried to stay abreast of his claim rights and had not been advised of a critical change in his policy rights, the 1st Circuit held that the 1-year limitation on the right to appeal should tolled and allowed Mr. Calandria to file his claim.

The ERISA lesson in Calandria: Don’t sleep on your rights!






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