When Tolling Ends For Class Members: The Seventh Circuit Expands The Scenarios When Class Members Lose The Benefits Of Tolling

Author:Mr Matthew H. Bunn
Profession:Duane Morris LLP

Class actions are vexing for defendants. The exposure can be large and the litigation can become very complex. One way to defeat a class action is on statute of limitations grounds. However, in the seminal case on statutes of limitations in the class action context, American Pipe & Construction Co. v. Utah, 414 U.S. 538 (1974), the Supreme Court held when a plaintiff files a complaint on behalf of a proposed class, and where certification is denied because of the plaintiff's failure to demonstrate that "the class is so numerous that the joinder of all members is impracticable," the statute of limitations for the claim is tolled for each member of the class. Id. at 552-53. There, the Supreme Court held the commencement of the original class suit tolled the running of the statute of limitations for all purported members of the class who timely moved to intervene after the district court found the suit was inappropriate for class action status. Later, in Crown, Cork & Seal Co. v. Parker, 462 U.S. 345 (1983), the Supreme Court held the same tolling rule applies to class members who choose to file separate suits. But neither opinion addressed whether tolling continues in other contexts, such as during the pendency of an appeal after the suit is dismissed or when class certification is denied. In other words, when does tolling stop?

In Collins v. Village of Palatine, No. 16-3395, (7th Cir. 2017), the Seventh Circuit addressed whether a dismissal with prejudice strips a case of its class-action character, thereby restarting the clock on the statute of limitations. Collins concerned a class action against the Village of Palatine for violations of the Driver's Privacy Protection Act by placing parking tickets on individuals' cars that displayed an individual's personal information. The district court entered summary judgment for the Village on the first class representative's suit and denied the motion for class certification as moot. When the...

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