Sulyma v. Intel Corp. Investment Policy Committee, No. 17-15864 (9th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
A former employee and participant in Intel’s retirement plans sued the company for allegedly investing retirement funds in violation of ERISA section 1104. The district court dismissed the action as untimely, concluding that the employee had the requisite “actual knowledge” to trigger ERISA’s three-year limitations period, 29 U.S.C. 1113(2). The Ninth Circuit reversed. A two-step process is followed in determining whether a claim is barred by section 1113(2): the court isolates and defines the underlying violation on which the plaintiff’s claim is founded; the court then inquires whether the plaintiff had “actual knowledge” of the alleged breach or violation. Actual knowledge does not mean that a plaintiff had knowledge that the underlying action violated ERISA, nor does it merely mean that a plaintiff had knowledge that the underlying action occurred. The defendant must show that the plaintiff was actually aware of the nature of the alleged breach more than three years before the plaintiff’s action was filed. In an ERISA section 1104 case, the plaintiff must have been aware that the defendant had acted and that those acts were imprudent. Disputes of material fact as to the plaintiff’s actual knowledge precluded summary judgment.