Consider a hypothetical person named Jane, who bought a chair twenty years ago. The chair was designed to help relieve back pain, but it actually made it worse. Because Jane was trying many different remedies, she did not associate the chair with the new pain. Additionally, the problems with the chair were not discovered for many years, when a newspaper reported that the company had known this was a possibility. However, Jane had stopped using the chair after just a couple months, when she underwent a medical procedure that relieved her pain. Jane wants to bring a products liability claim for personal injury and negligent design, but are her claims time-barred? The answer may depend on the state in which Jane brings the action.
On January 22, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its first 5-4 merits decision of the term in Artis v. District of Columbia. In this opinion, the Court held that bringing state claims in federal court stops the clock on the statute of limitations for those claims.
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1367, federal courts may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over state law claims that arise from the same case or controversy presented in the federal lawsuit. If the federal court later dismisses the federal claims that independently qualify for federal jurisdiction, however, then the court will also ordinarily dismiss the state claims that it had supplemental jurisdiction over as well. As such, 28 U.S.C. § 1367(d) contains a tolling mechanism providing that the “period of limitations for” refiling a dismissed state claim in state court “shall be tolled while the claim is pending [in federal court] and for a period of 30 days after it is dismissed unless State law provides for a longer tolling period.” The Artis opinion dictates how this tolling mechanism operates.