Under American Pipe and Construction Company v. Utah, the filing of a class complaint tolls the limitations period governing the individual claims of putative class members. 414 U.S. 538 (1974). How such tolling applies on a case-by-case basis can present difficult questions.
One such question is whether American Pipe tolling applies to individual claims filed before a certification decision is made. In Aly v. Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., 1 F.4th 168 (3d Cir. 2021), the Third Circuit joined the Second, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits in holding that American Pipe tolling applies to individual claims filed both before and after the class-certification stage. Only the Sixth Circuit has reached a different conclusion. The Third Circuit’s decision reinforces the majority view that plaintiffs may assert individual claims prior to a certification decision without losing the benefit of American Pipe tolling.
The Sixth Circuit, meanwhile, recently addressed a different set of American Pipe tolling issues. Potter v. Commissioner of Social Security, 9 F.4th 369 (6th Cir. 2021), held that a district court’s administrative denial of class certification as a matter of docket management did not end American Pipe tolling. The Sixth Circuit recognized that its conclusion likely created a split with an earlier Fourth Circuit ruling adopting a “bright-line rule” that American Pipe tolling continues until class certification is denied “for whatever reason.” Potter also held that outright dismissal of an uncertified class complaint ends American Pipe tolling even if the dismissal is subject to a pending appeal—joining the conclusion reached by every other court of appeals to have considered the issue.