Monday, June 11, 2018

SCOTUS decision in China Agritech v. Resh: American Pipe tolling and subsequent class actions

Today the Supreme Court issued its decision in China Agritech, Inc. v. Resh (covered earlier here). Justice Ginsburg authored the Court’s opinion, which was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Thomas, Breyer, Alito, Kagan and Gorsuch. From the introduction:

This case concerns the tolling rule first stated in American Pipe & Constr. Co. v. Utah, 414 U. S. 538 (1974). The Court held in American Pipe that the timely filing of a class action tolls the applicable statute of limitations for all persons encompassed by the class complaint. Where class-action status has been denied, the Court further ruled, members of the failed class could timely intervene as individual plaintiffs in the still-pending action, shorn of its class character. See id., at 544, 552–553. Later, in Crown, Cork & Seal Co. v. Parker, 462 U. S. 345 (1983), the Court clarified American Pipe’s tolling rule: The rule is not dependent on intervening in or joining an existing suit; it applies as well to putative class members who, after denial of class certification, “prefer to bring an individual suit rather than intervene . . . once the economies of a class action [are] no longer available.” 462 U. S., at 350, 353–354 * * * .

The question presented in the case now before us: Upon denial of class certification, may a putative class member, in lieu of promptly joining an existing suit or promptly filing an individual action, commence a class action anew beyond the time allowed by the applicable statute of limi­tations? Our answer is no. American Pipe tolls the stat­ute of limitations during the pendency of a putative class action, allowing unnamed class members to join the action individually or file individual claims if the class fails. But American Pipe does not permit the maintenance of a follow-on class action past expiration of the statute of limitations.

The opinion concludes:

The watchwords of American Pipe are efficiency and economy of litigation, a principal purpose of Rule 23 as well. Extending American Pipe tolling to successive class actions does not serve that purpose. The contrary rule, allowing no tolling for out-of-time class actions, will propel putative class representatives to file suit well within the limitation period and seek certification promptly. For all the above-stated reasons, it is the rule we adopt today: Time to file a class action falls outside the bounds of Amer­ican Pipe.

Justice Sotomayor wrote a concurring opinion, which begins:

I agree with the Court that in cases governed by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PSLRA),15 U. S. C. §78u–4, like this one, a plaintiff who seeks to bring a successive class action may not rely on the tolling rule established by American Pipe & Constr. Co. v. Utah, 414 U. S. 538 (1974). I cannot, however, join the majority in going further by holding that the same is true for class actions not subject to the PSLRA.


Class Actions, Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink


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