In Walker v. Financial Recovery Services, Inc., No. 14-13769 (11th Cir. March 27, 2015), the court addressed the impact of an offer of judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 68 on both a putative class and its named representative’s complaint. In the district court below, Financial Recovery Services, Inc. (“FRS”)  successfully dismissed Walker’s complaint as moot by  making an offer of judgment which “provide[d] Walker with complete [statutory] relief.” Id. at 3.  In reversing the lower court, the court in Walker relied on and declined to “reconsider[] or modifv[]” Stein v. Buccaneers Ltd. P’ship, a recent Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals case that Walker found controlling. Id.

In Stein, the plaintiffs filed a proposed class action alleging that the defendant violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act when it sent unsolicited faxes advertising tickets to NFL games. See Stein v. Buccaneers Ltd. P’ship, 772 F.3d 698, 700–01 (11th Cir. 2014). Prior to the plaintiffs filing a class-certification motion, the defendant made offers of judgment under Rule 68 for full statutory damages plus reasonable attorneys’ fees to all named plaintiffs. See id. Two days later the defendant moved to dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction arguing that the unaccepted Rule 68 offers rendered the case moot. See id. at 701. Unconvinced, the court held alternatively that (1) an unaccepted Rule 68 offer of judgment does not moot a named plaintiff’s complaint, and (2) even if it did, “a Rule 68 offer of full relief to the named plaintiff does not moot a class action, even if the offer precedes a class-certification motion, so long as the named plaintiff has not failed to diligently pursue class certification.” Id. at 707.  

In Walker, FRS attempted to distinguish Stein by arguing that, unlike Stein where the offers “were deemed revoked if not accepted and the defendant did not request that the district court enter judgment on the terms of its offers, FRS continued to stand behind its offer and requested that the district court provide Walker with complete relief by entering judgment.” Walker, No. 14-13769, at 2–3. However, the court was “not persuaded that these factual differences should alter [its] analysis.” Id. at 3. The court continued, stating, “[e]ven if there were a persuasive way to distinguish the facts of this case from Stein’s first alternative holding, Stein’s second alternative holding would still bind us.” Id.

Stein and Walker make clear that absent an en banc decision overruling Stein or Supreme Court intervention, in the Eleventh Circuit, an offer of judgment providing complete relief to a named plaintiff will not moot that plaintiff’s complaint, nor will it defeat a class action, “even if the offer preceded a class-certification motion, so long as the named plaintiff has not failed to diligently pursue class certification.” Stein, 772 F.3d at 707.