If you make a habit of checking our Cross-Jurisdictional
Class Action Tolling scorecard on a daily basis, then you already know
that the Louisiana Supreme Court recently skewered cross-jurisdictional tolling.  They beat it with a red stick.  But let’s assume for a moment that you have a life.  So
blenderize a Hurricane, fry up some bacon-wrapped oysters, twirl a Who Dat
parasol, and enjoy the Cajun masterpiece that is Quinn v. Louisiana Citizens
Property Ins. Corp.
, 2012 La. NEXIS 2995 (La. Nov. 2, 2012).

 

For us, discussing  Louisiana case law is like trying a
new hot sauce – tasty and terrifying.  Louisiana law is really
different.  Redhibition, anyone?  It turns out that the peculiarity
of Louisiana law is what makes it easy for the Louisiana Supreme Court to hold
in the Quinn case that the Louisiana legislature did not intend to permit
cross-jurisdictional class action tolling.

 

Quinn is not a drug or device case.  It is not even a
product liability case.  Instead, the case involved insureds who brought a
state court action against their homeowner’s insurer to recover for alleged
underpayment of compensation for wind and water damage resulting from
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  The case would have been barred by the
statute of limitations, unless the plaintiffs could benefit from tolling (in
Louisiana talk, a “suspension of prescription”) by virtue of an earlier class
action that had been filed, and recently dismissed, in Louisiana federal court.
  

 

Before going through the Quinn analysis, let’s review the
bidding on cross-jurisdictional class action tolling:

 

·        
Cross-jurisdiction tolling is a rule whereby a
court in one jurisdiction tolls the applicable statute of limitations based on
the filing of a class action in another jurisdiction.

·        
We hate it.  The law should not reward the
filing of meritless class actions, and lawyers should not be able to game
statutes of limitations in other jurisdictions.

·        
We hate it.

 

The plain words of the Louisiana tolling statute contain “no
express language limiting its effect to class actions filed only in Louisiana
state courts, ordinarily an indication that such a limitation was not
intended.”  Quinn, 2012 La. LEXIS 2995 at *19.  Okay, we admit it –
that scared us.  But we held our voodoo doll tight and took another bite out of
a beignet.  Surely this would turn out alright, right? 
 
 
Right.
 The Louisiana tolling statute refers to notice requirements that are
“unique to Louisiana.”  Id. at *21.  Thus, “[b]y tying the operative
provisions of La. C.C.P. art. 596 to unique aspects of Louisiana class action
procedure, the legislature has expressed an intent that suspension of
prescription under La. C.C.P. art. 596 can apply only to putative class actions
filed in Louisiana state courts.”  Id. at * 23.    The Louisiana
Supreme Court was not merely standing on ceremony.  Because the Louisiana
tolling statute triggered and stopped tolling periods based on unique
requirements of Louisiana law, application of cross-jurisdictional tolling
would effectively permit indefinite tolling.  Id. at *25.  That result would be,
of course, unfair, capricious, and insane – sort of like a Bourbon Street
bouncer at 2 a.m. 

 

The plaintiffs argued that federal courts sitting in
diversity should apply Louisiana state law on limitations and tolling. 
But that rule would be “absurd and patently unfair.”  Id. at *23 n.
12.  It would also contravene something every first year law student
learns – that the Erie doctrine requires federal courts sitting in diversity to
apply state substantive law and federal procedural law.  Id.

 

Finally, the Quinn court canvasses what other courts have
said about cross-jurisdictional tolling.  The courts that have accepted
cross-jurisdictional tolling did not involve anything like Louisiana’s unique
tolling provisions.  Moreover, the Quinn court agreed with the rationale
of the anti-cross-jurisdictional tolling courts, especially the concern about
forum-shopping, where opportunistic plaintiffs would file class actions in
states with the most generous tolling rules.   Id. at *31. 

 

Add Louisiana to the win column for cross-jurisdictional
tolling.   The opinion goes down smooth and easy, like a
sazerac.