Wednesday, May 20, 2015

SCOTUS Returns to Unanswered Question from Symczyk

Remember the FLSA "pick-off" case? In Genesis Healthcare v. Symczyk, the Court held that if an FLSA collective action becomes moot as to the only plaintiff (before additional plaintiffs were added), then the entire claim becomes moot (and the case is dismissed).

The Supreme Court assumed, without deciding, that "an unaccepted Rule 68 offer that fully satisfies a plaintiff’s individual claim is sufficient to render that claim moot." Well, now the Court returns to the unanswered question.

On Monday, the Court granted certiorari in Campbell-Edward Co. v. Gomez (SCOTUSblog page here). The case presents Rule 23 class action claims under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act - what's that got to do with Symczyk? I'm glad you asked! One of the questions presented is:
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 claim.
Justice Kagan and the "liberal bloc" appear to have tipped their hand in the Symczyk dissent (case is not mooted by an unaccepted offer of full relief). We'll see how this thing plays out next SCOTUS season.

Sidenote: This case shows why Justice Kagan was wrong that the Symczyk decision was a "one-off" with no real world application. If SCOTUS now holds that the offer does moot the case, we would otherwise be uncertain whether that mooted the entire FLSA collective action (because Campbell-Edward is a Rule 23 TCPA case). Symczyk tells us that the entire case would be moot (and dismissed) under the FLSA's collective action rules. Of course, she was already wrong because there could be any number of other reasons a lead plaintiff's case could become moot... but I digress.