In a groundbreaking decision that coincides with the ruling from our Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Mirza v. Insurance Administrator of America, Inc., 800 F.3d 129 (3d Cir.2015) the First Circuit Court of Appeals decided that ERISA regulations require a plan administrator in its denial of benefits letter to inform a claimant of the deadline for filing a lawsuit.
ERISA itself does not contain a statute of limitations for bringing a civil action. 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B), so federal courts usually “borrow the most closely analogous statute of limitations in the forum state.” The Supreme Court has already held enforceable a contractual limitations period that commenced when the proof of disability was due, instead of the date of the final denial letter. Heimeshoff v. Hartford Life & Accident Ins. Co., 134 S. Ct. 604, 610 (2013).
Insurers have been allowed to establish oppressive deadlines for lawsuits that are almost impossible to meet. Short deadlines even six months has been enforced by the court. However, when the plan fails to inform clients of impending deadlines for litigation, the claimant may mistakenly think that they have plenty of time to find counsel to file suit on their behalf if their benefits are denied.