Campbell-Ewald v. Gomez

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Procedure
  • Date Filed: January 20, 2016
  • Case #: 14–857
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Ginsburg, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Kennedy, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Thomas, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. Roberts, C. J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Scalia and Alito, JJ., joined. Alito, J., filed a dissenting opinion.
  • Full Text Opinion

Refusal of a settlement offer does not efface a claim.

Petitioner, a subcontractor, developed a recruiting campaign for the United States Navy utilizing text messages to individuals who had opted to receive the messages. Respondent, a forty-year-old man, received text messages without consenting to the solicitation. When Respondent initiated a class action under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, Petitioner offered a settlement under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 68 (FRCP). Respondent let the settlement offer lapse. Petitioner moved to dismiss the case under FRCP 12(b)(1), arguing that no case or controversy remained once Petitioner offered a complete settlement and therefore the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The district court granted Petitoner's motion and the Ninth Circuit reversed holding that Respondent still had a viable claim.

The Supreme Court applying basic principles of contract law, held that when the settlement offer was not accepted, a controversy between the parties still existed. An issue only becomes moot when the court is no longer able to grant relief. Petitioner’s unaccepted settlement offer did not efface Respondent's claim. Petitioner also raised a question as to whether it was immune from liability as a federal contractor. Immunity exists for contractors who perform work as directed by the U.S. Government. By sending text messages to individuals who had not opted to participate, Petitioner exceeded the authority granted by the United States Navy and therefore is not protected from liability as a federal contractor.

The Ninth Circuit decision was affirmed and Respondent's claim is remanded for further proceedings.

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