Clemens v. DaimlerChrysler – The Ninth Circuit Addresses A New Twist In The Law Of Cross-Jurisdictional Tolling
By JOHN P. PHILLIPS
Since its recognition thirty years ago, the class-action tolling doctrine has been contentious and highly debated. At its core, the doctrine is easy to state: The filing of a class-action tolls the statute of limitations for all unnamed class members until such time as either certification is denied (expressly or implicitly), the original case is dismissed, or the rights of the unnamed class members are no longer pursued — whichever comes first. In operation, however, the doctrine is complicated and raises numerous issues, triggered, in certain instances, by attempts to “stack” class actions (adding two or more putative class actions together to extend the statute of limitations indefinitely) or to file “successive” class actions (where an unnamed class member relies on tolling but subsequently files a class action of his own). The majority of courts have rejected these strategies. But a new question has emerged recently: Does the class-action tolling doctrine apply across jurisdictions? Does, for example, the filing of a nationwide class action filed in federal court in Maine toll the statute of limitations for unnamed class members in state court in Alaska? The Ninth Circuit tackled this important question and answered: “No.” In doing so, the Court in Clemens v. DaimlerChrysler Corporation joined a number of other recent courts that have rejected class-action tolling in the cross-jurisdictional setting and along the way provided some helpful guideposts for clients and courts faced with cross-jurisdictional tolling questions.