Ellen Delgado sued collection agency Collecto, Inc., accusing it of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by sending her an improper debt collection letter. After she filed suit (but before she moved for class certification), Collecto made an offer of judgment for Ms. Delgado’s full damages, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs. It then, some minor procedural maneuvering aside, moved to dismiss the case as moot.
These facts should sound familiar to readers of this blog; they’re part of the ongoing battle over whether a defendant can moot a named plaintiff’s claims in a class action by offering judgment under Federal Rule 68.
In this case, Delgado v. Collecto, Inc., No. 8:13-cv-2511-T-33TBM, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 171607 (M.D. Fla. Dec. 5, 2013), the Court decided that the offer did moot the named plaintiff’s claims. As it held:
After hearing from the parties, the Court determines that Delgado no longer maintains a personal stake in this action. The Rule 68 offer of judgment tendered by Collecto offered her full relief, and her counsel candidly conceded this point during oral argument. Delgado asserts that this action is not moot because she represents a putative class of individuals who have been harmed by Collecto’s alleged violations of the FDCPA and FCCPA. However, Delgado has yet to file a Motion for Class Certification.
But what is particularly interesting about this opinion is that the court decided the case based in part on the Supreme Court’s opinion in Genesis Healthcare v. Symczyk.
The Court recognizes that the Genesis decision was handed down in the context of a FLSA collection action, rather than a Rule 23 putative class action. However, the Court can see no reason to confine the Supreme Court’s discussion of constitutional principles narrowly so as to encompass only FLSA cases, as Delgado suggests. Rather, the prudential doctrines of standing and mootness apply to all cases brought in this Article III Court with equal force.
(Emphasis added.) So what’s the takeaway here? It may be worth dusting off the offer of judgment; it appears that some courts at least have begun to recognize that if an offer of judgment can moot a collective action, it can likely do the same to a class action under Rule 23.