Reynoldsville Casket Co. v. Hyde
514 U.S. 749 (1995)

Annotate this Case

OCTOBER TERM, 1994

Syllabus

REYNOLDSVILLE CASKET CO. ET AL. v. HYDE

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF OHIO No. 94-3. Argued February 27, 1995-Decided May 15, 1995

More than three years after respondent Hyde was in an accident in Ohio with a truck owned by a Pennsylvania company, she filed suit in an Ohio county court against the company and the truck's driver, petitioners herein. The suit was timely under an Ohio provision that tolls the running of the State's 2-year statute of limitations in lawsuits against outof-state defendants. However, while her case was pending, this Court, in Bendix Autolite Corp. v. Midwesco Enterprises, Inc., 486 U. S. 888, held that the tolling provision places an unconstitutional burden upon interstate commerce. The county court dismissed her suit as untimely, but it was ultimately reinstated by the State Supreme Court, which held that Bendix could not be applied retroactively to bar claims that had accrued prior to the announcement of that decision.

Held: The Supremacy Clause bars Ohio from applying its tolling statute to pre-Bendix torts. Pp. 752-759.

(a) Hyde acknowledges that this Court, in Harper v. Virginia Dept. of Taxation, 509 U. S. 86, 97, held that, when it decides a case and applies the new legal rule of that case to the parties before it, then it and other courts must treat the same rule as "retroactive," applying it, for example, to pending cases, whether or not they involve predecision events. She thereby concedes that Bendix applies to her case and retroactively invalidated the tolling provision that makes her suit timely. She argues instead that the issue here is not one of retroactivity, and that the Ohio Supreme Court's action is permissible because all that court has done is to fashion a remedy that takes into consideration her reliance on pre-Bendix law. Pp. 752-753.

(b) There are serious problems with Hyde's argument. The Ohio Supreme Court's syllabus (the legally authoritative statement of its holding) speaks, not about remedy, but about retroactivity. That court's refusal to dismiss her suit on the ground that she may have reasonably relied upon pre-Bendix law is the very sort of justification that this Court, in Harper, found insufficient to deny retroactive application of a new legal rule. She correctly notes that, as courts apply "retroactively" a new rule of law to pending cases, they may find instances where the new rule, for well-established legal reasons, does not determine the outcome of the case. However, this case involves no instance or special circumstance that might somehow justify the result she seeks.


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It does not concern (1) an alternative way of curing the constitutional violation; or (2) a previously existing, independent legal basis for denying relief, see, e. g., McKesson Corp. v. Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, Fla. Dept. of Business Regulation, 496 U. S. 18, 40-41; or (3) a well-established general legal rule, such as qualified immunity, that trumps the new rule of law, which general rule reflects both reliance interests and other significant policy justifications, see, e. g., Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U. S. 800, 818; or (4) a principle of law that limits the principle of retroactivity itself, see Teague v. Lane, 489 U. S. 288. Hyde has offered no more than simple reliance as a basis for creating an exception to Harper's retroactivity rule and has conceded that Harper governs this case. Her concession means that she cannot prevail. pp.753-759.

68 Ohio St. 3d 240, 626 N. E. 2d 75, reversed.

BREYER, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C. J., and STEVENS, SCALIA, SOUTER, THOMAS, and GINSBURG, JJ., joined. SCALIA, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which THOMAS, J., joined, post, p. 759. KENNEDY, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which O'CONNOR, J., joined, post, p. 761.

William E. Riedel argued the cause and filed briefs for petitioners.

Timothy B. Dyk argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief was David J. Eardley. *

JUSTICE BREYER delivered the opinion of the Court.

In Bendix Autolite Corp. v. Midwesco Enterprises, Inc., 486 U. S. 888 (1988), this Court held unconstitutional (as impermissibly burdening interstate commerce) an Ohio "tolling" provision that, in effect, gave Ohio tort plaintiffs unlimited time to sue out-of-state (but not in-state) defendants. Subsequently, in the case before us, the Supreme Court of

* Irene C. Keyse- Walker filed a brief for the Dalkon Shield Claimants Trust as amicus curiae urging reversal.

Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the State of Ohio by Lee Fisher, Attorney General, Richard A. Cordray, State Solicitor, and Simon B. Karas; and for Brown & Szaller Co., L. P. A., et al. by James F. Szaller, Robert A. Marcis, Larry S. Stewart, and Jeffrey R. White.


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Full Text of Opinion

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