Supreme Court to Determine if Offer of Relief to Named Plaintiff Moots Class Action
- May 22, 2015
Over the past several years, employers defending wage and other class action lawsuits have increasingly used a procedural move intended to defeat the class claim. In these cases, the employer offers complete financial and other relief to the named plaintiff. The defendant then moves to dismiss the class action on the basis that the named plaintiff cannot represent the class because his or her claims have been mooted. This “pick-off” strategy has proven useful where the plaintiffs’ attorneys driving the class action have difficulty locating an alternative suitable named plaintiff.
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will review the appropriateness of the pick-off strategy. Campbell-Ewald v. Gomez is not an employment case. It involves claims that an advertising agency sent unsolicited text messages to potential recruits on behalf of the U.S. Navy in violation of the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act. In response to the class action claim, the defendant offered to pay the named plaintiff the maximum amount allowed under the law to settle the claim.
Mr. Gomez turned down the settlement, and the defendant moved to dismiss the class because the named plaintiff could no longer serve as its representative. The Supreme Court will decide whether an offer of full recovery to the named plaintiff forces him or her out of the case, and requires the class to identify alternative members in order to survive and proceed.
This case will likely not be argued or decided before the fall. In addition to wage claims, the Court’s determination in this matter will impact other federal labor class action matters, and how employers approach their defense of such matters.