SYNOPSIS: In Heimeshoff v. Hartford Life & Accident Insurance Co., the U.S. Supreme Court resolved a split among circuits and upheld a plan provision requiring a suit to recover benefits to be brought within three years from the date that written “proof of loss” was required to be furnished. The Court reasoned that the provision at issue was valid because (1) it did not contradict any applicable statute (i.e., ERISA), (2) the plan was required to be administered in accordance with its terms, and (3) the period during which the suit was required to be brought was not unreasonably short.
TAKE AWAYS: Consultants to employers maintaining any type of ERISA-covered benefit plan – including retirement plans, death benefit plans, disability plans and others – should help ensure that the relevant plan documents contain provisions setting forth appropriately limited periods during which a lawsuit must be brought to enforce a benefits claim. This approach will help limit the company’s exposure to open-ended claims.
MAJOR REFERENCES: Heimeshoff v. Hartford Life & Accident Insurance Co., 571 U.S. ____, (2013).
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