Southern District of Florida: An Offer of Full Individual Relief Made Prior to a Motion for Class Certification Renders the Class Action Moot
In Keim v. ADF MidAtlantic, LLC, 12-80577-CIV, 2013 WL 3717737 (S.D. Fla. 2013), the Southern District of Florida granted a motion to dismiss a TCPA class action complaint, holding that the defendants' Rule 68 offer of full potential relief to the named plaintiff rendered said plaintiff's individual claims moot and, in turn, that the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the claims. The plaintiff in Keim filed a class action complaint for statutory damages and injunctive relief under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (the "TCPA") for sending unsolicited commercial text messages to potential customers using an automatic telephone dialing system. The plaintiff sought statutory damages at $500 per text message for negligent violations of the Act, and $1,500 for each willful violation of the Act. Before the plaintiff moved for class certification, the defendants made the named plaintiff an offer under Rule 68 to allow judgment to be entered for $1,500 for each text message the named plaintiff received, and any other relief the Court deemed appropriate. After the named plaintiff rejected the offer, the defendants moved to dismiss the complaint as moot. Starting with an analysis of the Supreme Court's Genesis Healthcare v. Symczyk opinion, the district court emphasized that once a defendant offers to satisfy a plaintiff's entire demand, there is no dispute over which to litigate, and a plaintiff who refuses to acknowledge this loses outright under Rule 12(b)(1) because he has no remaining stake. Further, citing Damasco v. Clearwire Corp., the district court held that to allow a case, not certified as a class action and with no motion for class certification even pending, to continue in federal court when the sole plaintiff no longer maintains a personal stake defies the limits on federal jurisdiction expressed in Article III. The district court rejected the argument that the holding would allow defendants to "pick off" lead plaintiffs because a simple solution is available. Class action plaintiffs can move to certify the class at the same time that they file their complaint, thus protecting a putative class from attempts to pick off the named plaintiffs. Further, the Motion for Class Certification may request that the Court withhold ruling on the class certification until discovery reveals any necessary information or documents central to the certification. Accordingly, the district court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss and retained jurisdiction to effectuate entry of judgment consistent with the terms of the defendants Rule 68 offer. For more information on consumer finance litigation topics, please contact one of the Burr & Forman team members for assistance. We are happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have.
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