United States: Eleventh Circuit Reaffirms Rejection Of "Piggybacking" In Class Actions

Last Updated: August 11 2015
Article by J. Todd Kennard and Gregory R. Hanthorn

A recent Eleventh Circuit decision that rejected a putative class representative's attempt to "piggyback" onto a previous class action may provide a defense to companies faced with seriatim class actions. The court found that the pendency of a previous class claim—even where the class was not ultimately certified—did not toll the statute of limitations. Thus, a later class action asserting essentially the same claims under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act ("TCPA") was barred by the statute of limitations. Ewing Indus. Corp. v. Bob Wines Nursery, Inc., No. 14-13842, 2015 BL 247415 (11th Cir. Aug. 3, 2015).

The First Class Action

The saga of the Ewing case traces its beginnings to December 2006, when Bob Wines Nursery ("Bob Wines") allegedly sent out a series of unsolicited fax advertisements. In January 2010, Aero Financial Inc. ("Aero") initiated a class action in Florida state court against Bob Wines, asserting that Bob Wines had violated the TCPA by sending out unsolicited faxes. Thus, as the Ewing court was later to note, "a little over three years had passed between the alleged conduct and the filing of the complaint." Ewing, 2015 BL 247415 at *1.

On June 25, 2013, the Florida state court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The state court held that Aero could not prove it had ever received a fax. In an apparent effort to fill that void, Aero asserted it had standing by virtue of a post-litigation assignment of claims. This was deemed insufficient to cure the standing issue. Given that Aero could not prove it had ever received a fax, it did not have standing.

The Aero court "never ruled on the issue of class certification .... The dispositive issue was a defect in the class representative, and the court never ruled on the whether the class itself was a proper class." Id.

The Ewing Piggyback Class Action

In August 2013—roughly six weeks after judgment in Aero but almost seven years after the faxes were sent—Ewing Industries Corporation ("Ewing") filed a new putative class action against Bob Wines based on the same faxes at issue in Aero. Recognizing the impediment posed by the four-year statute of limitations, Ewing's complaint met the issue square on and alleged that the statute of limitations had been tolled during the pendency of Aero's purported class action. If the Aero case tolled the statute of limitations, then the Ewing case was supposedly still timely, because the years that had passed between the filing of the Aero case and the order of dismissal would be properly excluded in assessing the timeliness of the Ewing complaint.

The defendants filed a motion to strike the class allegations in Ewing's complaint based on the statute of limitations. The federal district court struck the class allegations, held that the claims were time-barred, and denied Ewing's motion for class certification with prejudice. Ewing appealed.

The Eleventh Circuit Rejects Ewing's Tolling Argument

On appeal, the central and dispositive issue was whether the Ewing class action was time-barred in light of the Eleventh Circuit's precedent in Griffin v. Singletary, 17 F.3d 356 (11th Cir. 1994) (hereinafter, "Griffin II"). As in the Ewing case, Griffin II also involved seriatim class actions. In that lengthy action, a plaintiff filed a putative class action in 1979, but the Eleventh Circuit held in 1987 that the class must be decertified because the named plaintiffs were not properly representative of the class. Griffin v. Dugger, 823 F.2d 1476 (11th Cir. 1987). Following remand, a new set of putative class representatives stepped forward and tried to assert their own action. The trial court denied all motions to amend and held that the new class plaintiffs were untimely.

On the second appeal, Griffin II held in 1994—some 15 years after the case started—that the statute of limitations was not tolled during the first round of litigation and affirmed the judgment of the district court. It held that "the pendency of a previously filed class action does not toll the limitations period for additional class actions by putative members of the original asserted class." Griffin II, 17 F.3d at 359.

Ewing attempted to distinguish Griffin II by pointing out that a class had been certified and then overturned in Griffin II, whereas the Aero lawsuit never even reached the issue of class certification. The Eleventh Circuit rejected that argument, finding no distinction between a class that was decertified based on inadequate representatives (as in Griffin II) and a class that failed to reach the certification stage because its representative did not have standing to bring a claim (as in Ewing). The Eleventh Circuit reinforced this decision by quoting from Griffin II: "If there is any doubt whether Griffin II governs this case, it is resolved by the following excerpt from this court's opinion in Griffin II,

The plaintiffs may not 'piggyback one class action onto another' and thereby engage in endless rounds of litigation in the district court and in this Court over the adequacy of successive named plaintiffs to serve as class representatives. This case illustrates the wisdom of the rule against piggybacked class actions. Fifteen years after the Griffin lawsuit was filed, the class action issues are still being litigated ...."

Ewing, 2015 BL 247415 at *4.

While other courts have questioned the outcome in Griffin II, defendants facing seriatim TCPA or other class actions should be aware of the precedential value and practical logic of both Griffin II and Ewing.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Gregory R. Hanthorn
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.