In a 6-3 opinion, the United States Supreme Court held yesterday that a defendant’s unaccepted Rule 68 offer of judgment for complete relief does not moot a case. See Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez, 577 U.S. ___ (2016). Justice Bader Ginsburg, writing for the 6-3 majority, explained that “[u]nder basic principles of contract law,” an offer without acceptance is a legal nullity. Therefore, the Court reasoned, if a plaintiff does not accept a defendant’s mid-case settlement offer, the plaintiff gains no entitlement to relief, and “the parties remain[] adverse; both retain[] the same stake in the litigation they had at the outset.”

In so ruling, the Court addressed a question left open by its 2013 decision in Genesis HealthCare Corp. v. Symczyk, 569 U.S. ___; 133 S. Ct. 1523 (2013). In Genesis HealthCare, the majority declined to decide whether an unaccepted offer of complete relief mooted an individual’s claim because the plaintiff failed to preserve that argument. Even though defendant’s Rule 68 offer in Genesis HealthCare (whose lead counsel was Greenberg Traurig) was not accepted, Plaintiff did not argue that her failure to accept the Rule 68 offer prevented dismissal of her individual claim. Rather, she conceded that the offer mooted her individual claim and instead insisted that her case was not subject to dismissal because she brought her claim as a collective action on behalf of a group, and the Company’s offer of judgment provided no relief for that group. Unlike Mr. Gomez, therefore, the plaintiff in Genesis Healthcare never denied that the offer of judgment mooted her individual claim, and thus the majority did not reach the question. Justice Kagan wrote a critical dissent in Genesis HealthCare, explaining that she would have reached the mootness question, and stating that “an unaccepted offer of judgment cannot moot a case.”

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