Statutes of Limitations and Defendant Class Actions

This Note argues that in defendant class actions the statute of limitations should be tolled as to all named and absent class members upon informal notice given by the plaintiff at the beginning of the suit. Part I examines the purposes of statutes of limitations and class actions, and the manner in which these purposes were reconciled in American Pipe. It concludes that American Pipe requires the creation of a tolling doctrine that promotes both the fair notice policy that underlies statutes of limitations and the concern for litigative economy that underlies rule 23 class actions. Part II then demonstrates that courts thus far have been unsuccessful in adapting American Pipe to defendant class actions. Finally, Part III proposes a requirement of informal notice at the outset of a defendant class action as a means of harmonizing defendants’ need for notice with plaintiffs’ and courts’ desire for efficiency.