May 23, 2019 Articles

The Case for a Broader Reading of China Agritech’s Answer to Its Narrow “Question Presented”

The case should be interpreted to prevent the filing of new class claims no matter the reason for dismissal of the original class claims.

By Thomas J. Moloney, Christina Karam, and JD Colavecchio

Last June, the Supreme Court issued a nearly unanimous opinion in China Agritech v. Resh, holding that the tolling rule established by the Court’s American Pipe decision—which allows putative class members to file timely new individual lawsuits if class certification is denied after the statute of limitations should have otherwise run—does not permit a person to file a new, otherwise untimely class claim. China Agritech v. Resh, 138 S. Ct. 1800 (2018); see also Am. Pipe & Constr. Co. v. Utah, 414 U.S. 538 (1974); see Crown, Cork & Seal Co. v. Parker, 462 U.S. 345 (1983). Since then, district courts (and one circuit so far) have been at odds over whether the decision applies only to cases in which the prior class action ended because class certification was denied or whether it instead serves as a hard stop against tolling of successive class claims, period, regardless of how the prior action was resolved. In this article, we argue that China Agritech’s text and context, as well as practical implications and policy rationales, support the latter interpretation.

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