Statutes of Limitations and Opting Out of Class Actions

This Note argues that one who opts out of a class action should not benefit from tolling for the time during which the individual was a class member. Part I develops an analytical framework, grounded in the underlying policies of statutes of limitations and applied in recent Supreme Court decisions, for resolving tolling questions. This Part concludes that a plaintiff must show that tolling will not conflict with the policy purposes animating statutes of limitations, as well as a policy reason that favors tolling. Part II applies the first of these parameters to the opt-out situation, and concludes that tolling typically would not offend the policy concerns behind statutes of limitations. Part III examines the consequences of tolling for the interests served by the class action procedure. Given the weight accorded to these competing interests by American Pipe and its progeny, the policy balance shifts convincingly against tolling the limitations period for those who opt out of the class action. Courts confronting this issue should accordingly honor the reasoning of American Pipe rather than dicta suggesting a rule broader than its rationale.