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Bright v. United States

ELR Citation: 40 ELR 20134
Nos. No. 2009-5048, (Fed. Cir., 05/03/2010)

The Federal Circuit held that landowners seeking compensation for the alleged taking of their respective reversionary property interests under the National Trail Systems Act were permitted to opt in to a class action lawsuit against the government. The landowners alleged that the conversion of a railroad line into a public hiking trail under the Trails Act resulted in a Fifth Amendment taking of their reversionary property interests. The lower court dismissed the claim on the grounds that it was barred by the statute of limitations. The limitations period for filing a takings claim ends six years after the government files its Notice of Interim Trail Use or Abandonment. Although one landowner filed a class action complaint and sought class certification prior to the expiration of the limitations period, none of the 20 other putative class members opted in to the suit as named party plaintiffs prior to the expiration of the period. The Federal Circuit reversed, holding that the running of the six-year limitations period was tolled for all putative members of the opt-in class in this case. When, as here, a class action complaint is filed within the limitations period as to one named plaintiff, putative class members are permitted to opt in under Court of Federal Claims Rule 23 after expiration of the limitations period, when class certification is sought prior to expiration of the period, but the complaint is not amended to add other named plaintiffs as putative class members until after expiration of the period. The statute of limitations is tolled during the period the Court of Federal Claims allows putative class members to opt in to the class.