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Actual knowledge in ERISA claims

When ERISA claims are filed in Washington, D.C., the plan fiduciaries commonly claim that the statute of limitations bars the claims. ERISA claims have a three-year statute of limitations, which means that claims must be filed within that period of time, or they will be time-barred.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act is a federal law that sets standards for health and retirement plans that are voluntarily established by private companies. When people become aware that their plans' fiduciaries took actions that violated the provisions of ERISA, they may file lawsuits. In some cases, the workers may be unaware that they can file claims until the statute of limitations has run.

Courts are divided on how to calculate the statute of limitations. The Ninth Circuit recently ruled that courts must identify the underlying action on which the cause of action is based. It must then look at whether the plaintiff had actual knowledge of the nature of the breach. It rejected that constructive knowledge could equate to actual knowledge and found that an issue of material fact might exist when there is a question about whether a plan participant has read disclosures that were given to him or her from the plan.

ERISA benefit claims can be complicated, and it may be helpful to people to consult with experienced attorneys when they believe that their plan fiduciaries have violated ERISA. The attorneys might analyze the actions that were taken by the fiduciaries and offer assessments of whether they appear to have broken the law. If the attorneys agree to accept the claims, they might file formal complaints in the court that has the proper jurisdiction. They may work to negotiate a resolution of the dispute with the plan. If that doesn't happen, they might fight for their clients in court.

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