In China Agritech, Inc. v. Resh, 584 U.S. ___ (2018), No. 17-432, the Supreme Court held that the filing of a class action under Rule 23 does not toll the statute of limitations for putative class representatives who seek to file successive class actions. Clarifying its prior decision in American Pipe, the Court expressly held that filing a class action only tolls the statute of limitations for subsequent individual claims brought by unnamed class members until class certification is denied in the first-filed action. The China Agritech decision provides a powerful tool for defendants to fend-off successive class actions after defeating a bid for class certification.
In American Pipe & Constr. Co. v. Utah, 414 U.S. 538 (1974), the Supreme Court recognized that a timely filed class action tolls the applicable statute of limitations for all persons whose individual claims are encompassed by the class action complaint. The Court later clarified in Crown, Cork & Seal Co. v. Parker, 462 U.S. 345 (1983) that American Pipe tolling protects putative class members who later seek to bring separate, individual lawsuits against a defendant, without having to intervene in the original action. However, both decisions left unanswered, and several Courts of Appeals reached differing conclusions on, the question of whether American Pipe tolling extends to subsequently asserted class claims.