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Statute Provides Plaintiffs with Extended Period of Time to File State Claims Previously Dismissed in Federal Court


On January 22, 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”) held in a 5-4 decision that statutes of limitations for state law claims joined in a federal lawsuit are tolled until 30 days after a federal court dismisses the claims. This decision applies to state law claims brought in federal court under the Supplemental Jurisdiction statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1367, which enables federal courts to hear state law claims that arise out of the same set of circumstances as a valid federal law claim. The idea behind this statute is that it enables federal courts to efficiently and economically deal with related claims in a single litigation, rather than multiple litigations.

SCOTUS decided this issue in Artis v. District of Columbia, 138 S. Ct. 594 (2018). The plaintiff in that case is Stephanie Artis. In this case, Artis filed a federal employment discrimination claim in a federal court, and that court exercised its authority to hear Artis’ three state law claims[1] that were based on the same set of facts as the federal claim. When she brought the federal suit, nearly 2 years remained on the statute of limitations for her state law claims. Over 2 years later, the federal court dismissed all of her claims. 59 days after the dismissal, Artis refiled her state law claims in state court. The state court dismissed her refiled claims on the basis that the statute of limitations had expired. Artis appealed the dismissal all the way to SCOTUS, which eventually ruled in her favor, holding that the statute of limitations for her state law claims were tolled for the time period while they were pending in the federal court.
This decision will have a noticeable impact on litigants in all 50 states, including Illinois. The types of claims affected by this decision can potentially live for years after the statute of limitations specifically imposed by the Illinois legislature. Now, courts and litigants must be aware that state claims joined in a federal action can potentially be refiled years after the statute of limitations was supposed to end. Plaintiffs are a big winner in this decision because they might have the opportunity to re-litigate stale state law claims. Defendants are disadvantaged by this decision because they will have to prepare to defend against claims for longer than Illinois would normally provide. Additionally, older claims make it more likely that the defendant could lose important evidence.
Statutes of limitations are highly important to both plaintiffs and defendants. Both sides must be sure to adhere to the time periods for when claims can be filed. Going forward, plaintiffs will serve themselves well to recognize the nuances of limitations periods for claims brought in federal court, since this decision will almost assuredly be a detriment to future litigants that fail to pay close attention to the affects tolling can have on statutes of limitations.

[1] In the case, the claims were derived from District of Columbia law. Even though D.C. is not one of the 50 states, this post refers to the claims as “state law claims” to avoid confusing the audience and to indicate that this decision also applies to all 50 states. ange it (including to one in the future). Plus, you can click to update the title and author, and even add category tags below.
Categories: personal injury