Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
Article III of the Constitution limits federal-court jurisdiction to “cases” and “controversies.” U.S. Const. art. III, § 2. The United States Supreme Court has interpreted this requirement to demand that an actual controversy be extant at all stages of review, not merely at the time a complaint is filed. If an intervening circumstance deprives a plaintiff of a personal stake in the outcome of a lawsuit, at any point during litigation, the action can no longer proceed and must be dismissed as moot. A case becomes moot, however, only when it is impossible for a court to grant any effectual relief whatever to the prevailing party. As long as the parties have a concrete interest, however small, in the outcome of the litigation, the case is not moot.
The United States Navy contracted with petitioner Campbell-Ewald Company (Campbell) to develop a multimedia recruiting campaign that included the sending of text messages to young adults, but only if those individuals had “opted in” to receipt of marketing solicitations on topics that included Navy service. Campbell's subcontractor Mindmatics LLC generated a list of cellular phone numbers for consenting 18- to 24-year-old users and then transmitted the Navy's message to over 100,000 recipients, including respondent Jose Gomez, who alleges that he did not consent to receive text messages and, at age 40, was not in the Navy's targeted age group. Gomez filed a nationwide class action, alleging that Campbell violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. §227(b)(1)(A)(iii), which prohibits “using any automatic dialing system” to send a text message to a cellular telephone, absent the recipient's prior express consent. He sought treble statutory damages for a willful and knowing TCPA violation and an injunction against Campbell's involvement in unsolicited messaging. Before the deadline for Gomez to file a motion for class certification, Campbell proposed to settle Gomez's individual claim 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 District Court denied the motion. After limited discovery, the District Court granted Campbell's motion for summary judgment. Relying on Yearsley v. W. A. Ross Constr. Co., 309 U.S. 18, 60 S. Ct. 413, 84 L. Ed. 554, the court held that Campbell, as a contractor acting on the Navy's behalf, acquired the Navy's sovereign immunity from suit under the TCPA. The Ninth Circuit reversed. It agreed that Gomez's case remained live but concluded that Campbell was not entitled to “derivative sovereign immunity” under Yearsley or on any other basis.
Does an unaccepted settlement offer or offer of judgment moot a plaintiff's case?
The court held that the class action did not become moot because Gomez did not accept an offer of judgment the company filed pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 68 before Gomez sought class certification. Although the United States and its agencies were not subject to the TCPA's prohibitions because no statute lifted their immunity, the company's status as a federal contractor did not render it immune from suit for violating the TCPA by sending text messages to unconsenting recipients.