The Supreme Court Hands Consumers Victory in Class Action Decision

by Scott D. Salmon, Esq.

Today, the United States Supreme Court ruled for consumers seeking to pursue class action lawsuits in the matter of Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez. Justice Ginsberg, writing for the majority, held that a case does not become moot, and thus beyond the judicial power of Article III, when a plaintiff receives an offer of complete relief on his claim. Furthermore, the case does not become moot prior to class certification under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23.

In the matter, Campbell proposed to settle Gomez’s individual claim before the deadline for class certification and filed an offer of judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 68. Gomez did not accept the offer and allowed the Rule 68 submission to lapse on expiration of the time (14 days) specified in the Rule. Campbell then moved to dismiss the case pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Campbell argued first that its offer mooted Gomez’s individual claim by providing him with complete relief. Next, Campbell urged that Gomez’s failure to move for class certification before his individual claim became moot caused the putative class claims to become moot as well.

The Supreme Court found these arguments non-persuasive, stating that an “unaccepted settlement offer has no force. Like other unaccepted contract offers, it creates no lasting right or obligation. With the offer off the table, and the defendant’s continuing denial of liability, adversity between the parties persists.”

Consequently, this decision is a victory for consumers, as they cannot be swept under the rug by settling individual claims as they arise.