United States: Supreme Court Holds There Is No Tolling For Successive Class Actions

On June 11, 2018, the United States Supreme Court held in China Agritech Inc. v. Resh that class actions do not benefit from tolling under American Pipe v. Utah, 414 U.S. 538 (1974). In so ruling, the Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit, holding that "American Pipe does not permit the maintenance of a follow-on class action past expiration of the statute of limitations." The Court expressly limited the tolling principle announced in American Pipe to putative class members who wish to sue individually after the denial of class certification. This decision ensures some measure of finality and certainty to defendants following denial of class certification with respect to the scope of potential future claims.


China Agritech was a holding company listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange whose subsidiaries sold organic compound fertilizers in China. In 2011, China Agritech's stock price dropped after the company was confronted with allegations of fraudulent business practices. The SEC subsequently revoked China Agritech's stock registration.1

Thereafter, shareholders sued China Agritech in two successive putative class action suits in 2011 and 2012. In these suits, the shareholders alleged violations of §§ 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 and violations of the Securities Act of 1933. Both of these suits were within the two-year limitations period set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1658(b). The district court denied class certification in both cases and the parties settled.

In 2014, shareholder Michael Resh brought a third putative class action against China Agritech and individual defendants alleging Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5 claims premised on the same facts and circumstances as the previous two cases. Unlike the prior suits, the third putative class action was brought outside the two-year statute of limitations. Accordingly, the district court granted China Agritech's motion to dismiss the case as time-barred.2

The Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that the American Pipe rule tolls the limitations period to allow absent class members not only to bring their own individual claims but also to file otherwise untimely class actions. The Ninth Circuit reasoned that, "Permitting future class action named plaintiffs, who were unnamed class members in previously uncertified classes, to avail themselves of American Pipe tolling would advance the policy objectives that led the Supreme Court to permit tolling in the first place."3 The Ninth Circuit's position was contrary to that of the Second and Fifth Circuits, and it further expanded a compromise position adopted by the Third and Eighth Circuits (which permitted tolling if class certification was denied based on deficiencies in the lead plaintiff's representation of the class).

The Supreme Court's Decision

In a decision by Justice Ginsburg, the Supreme Court unanimously reversed, holding that "extending American Pipe tolling to successive class actions" does not serve the purposes of the American Pipe rule. The Court reasoned that the purpose of tolling is to vindicate the rights of plaintiffs who "have been diligent in pursuit of their claims" and "have not slept on their rights," while the expansion of the rule to allow successive and potentially limitless class actions would run contrary to principles of "efficiency and economy of litigation."

Although the Court acknowledged that the decision could lead to the filing of multiple class-actions, it concluded that this could be beneficial as "efficiency favors early assertion of competing class representative claims" so that "the district court can select the best plaintiff with knowledge of the full array of potential class representatives and class counsel." In making this observation, the Court noted that the China Agritech litigation was governed by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PSLRA), which requires parties filing putative class actions to provide notice to potential plaintiffs of the filing of a purported class action, and an opportunity to apply for status as a lead plaintiff. This reflects a congressional preference "for grouping class-representative filings at the outset of litigation." In this action, shareholder Michael Resh had ignored such opportunities to join either of the prior class action complaints, and the Court saw no reason to allow such a plaintiff "to enter the fray several years after class proceedings first commenced."

The Court held that the decision would apply to class actions generally. Although the Court's judgment was unanimous, Justice Sotomayor issued an opinion concurring in the judgment in which she expressed her belief that the holding should be limited to securities class actions governed by the PSLRA. She explained that "instead of adopting a blanket no-tolling-of-class-claims-ever rule outside the PSLRA context," the Court could have held, more narrowly, "that tolling only becomes unavailable for future class claims where class certification is denied for a reason that bears on the suitability of the claims for class treatment." But as the Court noted, "Endless tolling of a statute of limitations is not a result envisioned by American Pipe."

In reaching its decision, the Court also rejected arguments that denying tolling in this instance would violate the Rules Enabling Act and Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, reasoning that "[p]laintiffs have no substantive right to bring their claims outside the statute of limitations" because American Pipe already marks an exception to the substantive rights that allows statute of limitations to be tolled. The Court also noted that Rule 23 itself instructs "that class certification should be resolved early on."


This decision is consistent with the Supreme Court trend of limiting plaintiffs' pursuit of federal class actions. For example, it follows on the Court's decision last year rejecting equitable tolling of statutes of repose.4 For more information, see our prior Advisory, " Supreme Court Rejects Equitable Tolling of Claims Under the Securities Act's Statute of Repose." Although the filing of "protective complaints" prior to class certification decisions may increase, the decision will avoid successive motions for class certification and bring some measure of certainty following denial of class certification motions.

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.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
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
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

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 or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq 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 of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions