Crown Cork & Seal Company, Inc. v. Parker

PETITIONER: Crown Cork & Seal Company, Inc.
LOCATION: Internal Revenue Service

DOCKET NO.: 82-118
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 462 US 345 (1983)
ARGUED: Apr 18, 1983
DECIDED: Jun 13, 1983

George D. Solter - on behalf of the Petitioner
Norris C. Ramsey - on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case


Media for Crown Cork & Seal Company, Inc. v. Parker

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 18, 1983 in Crown Cork & Seal Company, Inc. v. Parker

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments first this morning in Crown, Cork & Seal against Parker.

Mr. Solter, I think you may proceed whenever you are ready.

George D. Solter:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court:

The real issue in this case is whether a blanket application of equitable tolling by the application of a blanket equitable tolling the defendant should be subjected to a second wave of separate, individual lawsuits by putative members of the class after the denial of class certification.

The Fourth Circuit's decision not only permits this, but also makes it possible for such individuals to file their complaints as class actions, thus beginning the tolling cycle once again.

We respectfully submit that the Fourth Circuit rule announced in this case is not supported by case law, is an intrusion upon legislative prerogative and is inconsistent with legislative purpose in establishing time requirements for filing.

It violates the integrity of Rule 23, expands rather than limits litigation arising out of class actions, and overlooks the jurisdictional aspect of the 90-day period prescribed in Title VII.

We further submit that there are no facts in this case which warrant equitable tolling for the individual respondent and there is no basis in fact in this case or in law for the adoption of the broad rule extending the tolling of American Pipe versus Utah to individual private actions after class certification has been denied.

Now, on the surface, it might appear that there is little difference between intervention as prescribed by American Pipe and a separate, individual lawsuit after class certification has been denied.

In order to examine the difference and illustrate the differences, it is necessary to see just what the Fourth Circuit tolling rule does by extending it to the private individual action.

By the mere filing of a complaint in the District Court, entitled a VII.

Secondly, and perhaps the most frightening part of it is that it really has the effect of placing the tolling power in the hands of lawyers and plaintiffs and not in the hands of the courts and this is done by the use of a broad class definition in the initial complaint, because in American Pipe, the filing of a complaint is what tolls the statute.

It is illustrated by this case in the complaint filed by the two alleged class members which the respondent seeks to... seek the benefit from, define the class as this: Black persons who have been, continue to be, or may in the future will be denied equal employment opportunities by the defendant.

That is from the first such person that was ever hired to infinity.

There is no limitation in that definition as to time, as to the location.

It wasn't restricted to the Baltimore plant and this company has plants in 26 states of the United States.

There is nothing to limit it by definition as to the nature of the discrimination or any other circumstance.

It simply refers to this gigantic class of persons in a very general sense.

Now, this danger was recognized in the concurring opinion in American Pipe where it was warned that it should not be interpreted as an encouragement to lawyers to frame overly broad issues... I mean, overly broad definitions to attract members.

We also feel finally that it is totally inconsistent with the purpose of the 90-day notice in Title VII.

In that notice, under the law, actual service of the notice upon the complainant after EEOC waives its jurisdiction is mandated.

The time does not begin to run until he actually has possession of that notice and that notice, as is shown in the Appendix, is extremely explicit.

It is not something that he is supposed to know about in the sense of when statutes start to run or filing times start to run.

He must know about it immediately by reading that notice or having someone read it to him.

There are no exceptions carved out in the statute for any other different period or any changing of that period and it seems extremely explicit even though this is a remedial statute and we all recognize the rule of liberal construction when we are referring to remedial statutes.

The important relevant facts in this case to remember are simply these: That the respondent, after having timely filed his complaint with the EEOC, sat back as he had to to await the result.

While that was being investigated, two other gentlemen from Crown, who were black employees who had been terminated, filed a class action known as Pendleton and Allen, and they used the broad definition which is have just referred to.

That occurred on September 15, 1978.

Approximately two months later the EEOC issued its no reasonable cause to believe that discrimination had occurred and the 90-day notice to sue.

Mr. Parker did nothing.