This week, the Sixth Circuit, in an unpublished opinion, held that a claim of this type is barred as untimely because of the statute of limitations. In that case, Watkins v. JP Morgan Chase U.S. Benefits Executive, the participant had asked for a distribution in 1998, but didn't ask where the check was until 2006 (there was evidence that the check had been issued but, in analyzing the statute of limitations issue, the court treated the check as not having been sent).
The court reasoned that, in the year that the distribution was requested, the participant needed to treat the failure to issue a check as a "clear repudiation" of her claim. Thus, the statute began to run then and had run out by the time the participant followed up.
I have been waiting for reported cases to begin in this area and am happy to see the first one that I'm aware of back the employer. Due to the volume of claims like these, this is probably just the beginning of courts' trying to resolve some tricky issues.