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SCOTUS Considers Tolling of State Claims in Federal Lawsuit

By George Khoury, Esq. on November 07, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

When a lawsuit brings both state and federal claims, and all the federal claims are dismissed, and the federal court decides not to exercise supplemental or ancillary jurisdiction over the state law claims, how long does a plaintiff have to file those state law claims in state court?

If you answered 30 days, then you'd be right. If you answered, it depends on how long the statute was tolled, you might also be right. But, a case currently being considered by SCOTUS might finally provide a more definitive answer. In the Artis v. District of Columbia matter, the High Court is being asked to decide whether the state law claim is tolled under federal statute, or if the 30-day filing window/grace period obviates the need for tolling.

A Statute by Any Other Wording

For all the confusion and fussing, and federal appeals and circuit splits, 28 Sec. 1367(d)'s wording seems clear:

The period of limitations for any claim asserted under subsection (a), and for any other claim in the same action that is voluntarily dismissed at the same time as or after the dismissal of the claim under subsection (a), 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.

The plaintiff in the Artis matter is pleading the High Court to reverse the district court and appellate court's decision dismissing the state law claims as time barred. Despite the clear language stating that the claim "shall be tolled," both lower courts have sided with the defendant's argument that the word tolling does not equate to a suspension of the statute of limitations. This reading essentially limits litigants to refilling within 30 days of a dismissal.

Interestingly, as noted on SCOTUSblog, the argument and questioning in the matter seemed to potentially favor the District's reasoning, or at least indicates that the Court might want to reach a similar conclusion as the appellate court.

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