Victory in the Supreme Court in Case Initiated by Connecticut Law Firm Has Implications for Employee Benefit Plans
SOUTHPORT, CT, Jan. 6, 2014 – A Connecticut law firm is celebrating over a recent decision by the US Supreme Court in a case that they initiated and which could have far-ranging implications for those involved with employee benefit plans. Southport-based Begos Brown & Green represented the Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company in a case that has significance to any employer with an ERISA plan.
“We were pleased that the The U.S, Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the decision in the case we tried and won in the lower federal courts because it affirms an important issue for insurance companies and employers alike,” says Patrick Begos, the attorney who originally litigated Heimeshoff v. Hartford Life and Accident Ins. Co. He heads the ERISA and Contract Disputes groups of Begos, Brown & Green.
The case involves a dispute over how long a participant has to sue if he or she disputes a benefit determination made by an employee benefit plan. ERISA does not specify a fixed time for a participant to sue, but the employee benefit plan’s own contract specified its own limitation period in this case.
“What was specifically in dispute in this case was not the length of the limitation period itself, but when it began to run,” say Begos, whose 20 year career as a litigator has included a number of ground-breaking ERISA cases. “Heimeshoff’s benefit plan expressly provided when the period would begin to run, but the plaintiff claimed that ERISA requires that the clock start running on a later date, regardless of what the plan said.”
In the original case, Begos argued that the limitation provision in the plan is enforceable as it was written. Both the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit agreed. “That means that the clock starts running when the plan says it does. The plaintiff was not happy with those decisions so he asked the Supreme Court to take the case. This week we have their decision that the plan document’s provisions hold.”