The United States Supreme Court has recently issued a decision which gives plaintiffs who bring both state and federal claims in federal court something of a breather. In Artis v. District of Columbia, a five-four majority held that the statute of limitations for state claims is tolled (i.e., stops running) during the pendency of the federal litigation.
The petitioner, Stephanie Artis, brought a federal discrimination case against her employer, the District of Columbia, along with claims under the D.C. whistleblowing and false claims statutes. The federal court accepted jurisdiction over the state claims pursuant to Section 1367 of Title 28 of the U.S. Code, which authorizes federal courts to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over state law claims that arise from a case or controversy presented in a federal lawsuit.
At the time Ms. Artis filed the federal case, the D.C. claims had two years left on their statute of limitations periods. It took the federal court two a half years, however, to dismiss the federal claim and also dismiss state claims under Section 1367. Fifty-nine days later, Ms. Artis refiled her state law claims in the D.C. Superior Court, which then dismissed them as time-barred, a decision that was upheld by the D.C. Court of Appeals.
The issue before the U.S. Supreme Court was the interpretation of Section 1367(d) of Title 28 of the U.S. Code, which states that “the period of limitations for any [state law] claim […] shall be tolled while the claim is pending and for a period of 30 days after it is dismissed, unless state law provides for a longer tolling period.” Justice Ginsberg ,writing for the majority, held that the statute’s instruction to toll the statute of limitations meant to hold it in abeyance or stop the clock. In dissent, Justice Gorsuch agreed with the D.C. Circuit, which had concluded that Section 1367(d) only meant to provide a thirty-day “grace period” in which a plaintiff could refile a dismissed state court claim.
By concluding that “tolling” under Section 1367 means that the limitations period is suspended, the Court gave comfort to plaintiffs who may want a second bite at the apple in state court if the federal court eventually dismisses their state claims.
This article is intended only as a general discussion of these issues. It is not considered to be legal advice or relied upon. For more information regarding employment law, please contact RPJ Partner Alice K. Jump, who is a part of the firm’s litigation group and counsels clients on employment, real estate, corporate and business matters. Ms. Jump is admitted to practice in New York and before the U.S. District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.