The Court’s decision, in our opinion, is a grave departure from the goals of efficiency and economy inherent to class actions. Requiring plaintiffs to preemptively file multiple actions unnecessarily burdens the judiciary and clogs the system with duplicative cases. The Court’s decision also is at odds with what we regard as the reality of modern class actions in that many do not have a final decision on class certification within two or four years, for reasons outside the named plaintiff’s control. Necessary discovery, taxed courts, appeals, and recalcitrant defendants all slow the process and often prevent the parties from obtaining a final ruling on class certification within the first few years. In addition, orders denying class certification may identify remediable issues that can be addressed only by filing a new action. This week’s ruling prohibits plaintiffs who initially timely filed their case from filing those new actions if the court’s class certification order arrives outside the original statute of limitations.
Imagine receiving a notice from the IRS that your long-awaited tax refund has been withheld by the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) because you were once paid Social Security benefits and SSA has identified a benefit overpayment that occurred over a decade ago — or one of your parents was once paid Social Security benefits on your behalf over a decade ago and SSA identified an overpayment. If the withheld amount was $2,100, would you go out and find an attorney to represent you in an individual case against the SSA?