On December 2, 2014, in Stein v. Buccaneers Ltd. P’ship, No. 13-15417, — F.3d –, 2014 WL 6734819 (11th Cir. 2014), the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed a district court order dismissing a putative class action as moot, holding that: (1) an unaccepted Rule 68 offer of judgment does not moot a plaintiff’s individual claims; and (2) even if a Rule 68 offer were to moot individual claims, the putative class action would remain justiciable, irrespective of whether a motion to certify the class had been filed at the time of the offer.
The Eleventh Circuit held: “[I]t is plain that this case still presents a live controversy. The plaintiffs say BLP violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and that all class members are entitled to money damages; BLP denies it . . . . The case before us, therefore, rests not on whether there exists a live controversy, but on whether the district court has before it some plaintiff with a personal stake in that controversy. The same is true here.”
The Eleventh Circuit further ruled that the district court’s ruling was “flatly inconsistent” with Rule 68, holding that the purpose of the rule is that a party that rejects a settlement offer, litigates and fails to get a better result must then pay its opponent’s costs. As to class claims, the Eleventh Circuit found that even if the individual claims were found to be moot, the class claims can remain alive and the named plaintiffs may still be able to pursue them.
The Eleventh Circuit’s decision adds to the growing split of authority nationwide regarding whether a complete Rule 68 offer of judgment moots putative class claims prior to an affirmative decision class certification, and the issue appears primed for eventual resolution by the Supreme Court. Troutman Sanders will continue to monitor such decisions as they are made.