Court: Fiduciary Breach Claims too Late

March 17, 2006 ( - A pension plan participant who filed a fiduciary breach suit under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) simply waited too long before proceeding with his court case, a judge has ruled.

US Magistrate Mary Ann Medler of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri said Robert Angell’s legal claims over pension payments made to his former wife were filed too late because he had been notified of the arrangement 14 years before he went to court, according to a BNA report.

The court said that under ERISA, an action for breach of fiduciary duty must be brought the earlier of six years after the date of the last action that constituted the breach, or three years after the earliest date on which the plaintiff had actual knowledge of the breach. In this case, both limitations periods had run, Medler ruled.

Medler pointed out Angell has been notified in 1990 about a court order awarding his former wife Lenna Angell part of his pension and that Angell’s monthly check was decreased by the amount paid to his wife starting in 1991.

Starting in 1952, Robert Angell participated in two separate pension plans while working for Trans World Airlines. In 1983, he was divorced from Lenna Angell, and she was awarded by a state court a share of her husband’s pension.

Beginning in 1991, John Hancock sent a portion of Robert Angell’s pension to Lenna Angell each month, pursuant to a group annuity contract and funding agreement with TWA. In 2005, Robert sued John Hancock alleging that by sending part of his pension each month to Lenna, John Hancock breached its ERISA fiduciary duty, its co-fiduciary duty, and that John Hancock owed Robert over $86,000 for benefits wrongfully assigned and alienated.

The case is Angell v. John Hancock Life Insurance Co., E.D. Mo., No. 4:05CV2220MLM, 3/13/06.