The Fourth Circuit held today that a disability plan under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act cannot begin the running of a limitations period before the plan participant’s ability to file a lawsuit arises.  The plan before the court put the participant in a Catch-22 situation — she had to sue within three years of when she had to file a proof of claim, but she couldn’t sue until the insurer denied her claim.  Concluding that the three-year limitations period didn’t start until denial of the claim, the court affirmed a judgment in the participant’s favor.  The decision had the effect of giving the participant the full three years from the date of denial.  One judge dissented.  White v. Sun Life Assurance Co., Nos. 06-1285 & 06-1491 (4th Cir. Apr. 26, 2007).

Barry Barnett

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