Deciding to step in to resolve a splint in the Circuits, the United States Supreme Court announced today that it granted a petition for a writ of certiorari in Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez, No. 14-857. That means that the Court will finally address an issue left open in Genesis Healthcare Corp. v. Symczyk, 133 S. Ct. 1523 (2013): “Whether a case becomes moot, and thus beyond the judicial power of Article III, when the plaintiff receives an offer of complete relief on his claims,” even when the claim is pursued in a class action.
The Ninth Circuit in Campbell-Ewald held that a full offer of relief to the named plaintiff did not end the case, and remanded the case to the district court. Other Courts of Appeals, notably the Seventh Circuit, have held that an offer of judgment to the named plaintiff can moot the class action, though in the Seventh Circuit that only works if the offer is made prior the filing of a motion for class certification. See Damasco v. Clearwire Corp., 662 F.3d 891 (7th Cir. 2011); see also Fontenot v. McCraw, No. 13-20611, 2015 WL 304151 (5th Cir. Jan. 23, 2015) (finding claims moot where no motion for class certification had been filed). But see Stein v. Buccaneers, L.P., No. 13-15417 (11th Cir. Dec. 1, 2014) (unaccepted offer of judgment to named plaintiff did not moot named plaintiff’s claim, and suggesting that even if it were, plaintiff could pursue claims on behalf of class).
Some plaintiffs’ counsel have gotten around this issue by simply filing a perfunctory motion to for class certification at the time they file the complaint, and then typically moving to stay that motion. How the Supreme Court will address the issue will be very interesting to both the plaintiff and defense bar as a reversal could enable an early resolution to class actions, particularly in statutory cases like the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, where there may be no real damage, but statutory damages (and thus a maximum amount of damages) can easily be calculated.
We will update you on developments.