Plaintiff contends that neither of these are the applicable statutory period since Delcostello was a suit for wrongful discharge while this suit solely involves pension rights under ERISA, and the most closely analogous state statute is either the 4 or 6 year limit for contract actions under 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 5525 (2) or (8). Alternatively, plaintiff indicates that the court could apply the 3 year limit under Pennsylvania's Wage Payment and Collection Law, 43 P.S. § 260.1 et seq., or the three to six year period applicable for ERISA actions for breach of fiduciary duty, 29 U.S.C. § 1113.
Characterization of the nature of the claim is key to the selection of an analogous limitations period and is a matter of federal law. International Union, UAW v. Hoosier Cardinal Corporation, 383 U.S. 696, 706, 16 L. Ed. 2d 192, 86 S. Ct. 1107 (1966).
This is an action for recovery of benefits due under the terms of an employee pension benefit plan. Complaint at p. 1. The plan in question is in written form and is attached to defendant's motion for summary judgment. The procedure under the plan for submission of a benefit and for the appeal of the denial of that claim are not analogous to a labor-management arbitration proceeding. Neither does this complaint challenge the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, or assert wrongful discharge or breach of a duty of fair representation. As such, the claim is not analogous to an arbitration proceeding or a labor law claim and is distinguishable from Delcostello. We believe that the claim is most analogous to contract law. See Jenkins v. Teamsters, 713 F.2d 247, 252 (7th Cir. 1983); Livolsi v. City of New Castle, Pa., 501 F. Supp. 1146 (W.D. Pa. 1980). Under Pennsylvania statute of limitations pertaining to contract law, the claims filed 9 months after the statute began to run, were timely.
Defendant next argues that the Trustees' decision denying plaintiff disability benefits was not arbitrary and capricious as a matter of law. Under Section 4 of the disability plan, the Trustees have broad powers to make and enforce rules and regulations for the administration of the Plan and to determine questions of coverage and eligibility for plan benefits. A court's scope of review of decisions in these matters by the Trustees is limited to a determination of whether that decision was arbitrary and capricious. Struble v. New Jersey Brewery Employees Welfare Trust Fund, 732 F.2d 325, 333 (3d Cir. 1984); Bowman Transportation Inc. v. Arkansas Best Freight System, Inc. et al, 419 U.S. 281, 95 S. Ct. 438, 42 L. Ed. 2d 447 (1974). In this case, the trustees had a medical report from Dr. Zernich, whom defendant contends was a neutral mutually agreed-upon medical arbitrator, which report indicated that plaintiff could return to work. Defendant insists that the Trustees' reliance on that report in denying plaintiff's benefits cannot be said to have been arbitrary or capricious.
Plaintiff acknowledges the broad powers of the trustees and this court's limited scope of review, but contends nonetheless that the trustees' decision was arbitrary and capricious. In support of this argument, plaintiff argues that Dr. Zernich's finding is only one factor to be considered by the trustees, and that all other evidence supports a finding of disability and this evidence was disregarded by the trustees. Plaintiff indicates that:
1) he is currently under the care of two doctors, both of whom have advised him that he is physically unable to work at any occupation (Ferguson Affidavit, para. 1).