Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Once More Unto the Settlement Offer Breach, My Friends!


Did you know settlement offer law in Florida is hopelessly screwed up and has been for a long time?

Then you haven't been paying attention!

Today's installment is an effort by the mighty 11th to clarify a common defense tactic -- picking off a statutory claim by offering one dollar more than the maximum statutory damages, hah hah you don't have standing anymore because we offered to make you whole.

Anyway, it was before Judge Ryskamp, involves FDCPA, and here is how it was framed:
Appellants Anthony W. Zinni, Blanche Dellapietro, and Naomi Desty appeal the district court’s dismissal of their complaints for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. In each case, an Appellee2 sent an e-mail offering to settle an Appellant’s FDCPA case for $1,001—an amount exceeding by $1 the maximum statutory damages available for an individual plaintiff under the FDCPA.3  Appellees also offered attorneys’ fees and costs in each case, but did not specify the amount of fees and costs to be paid. Appellants did not accept the settlement offers. The district court subsequently granted Appellees’ motions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), holding that the offers left Appellants with “no remaining stake” in the litigation. The district court then dismissed Appellants’ complaints with prejudice. We conclude the settlement offers did not divest the district court of subject matter jurisdiction.
The reason?

Simple, kids -- you need to include an offer to have judgment entered against your client, too:
The district court erred in finding Appellees’ settlement offers rendered moot Appellants’ FDCPA claims because the settlement offers did not offer full relief. See id. Each of the Appellants requested that the district court enter judgment in his or her favor and against an Appellee as part of the prayer for relief in the complaint. Appellees’ settlement offers, however, did not offer to have judgment entered against them. Because the settlement offers were not for the full relief requested, a live controversy remained over the issue of a judgment, and the cases were not moot. See Friends of Everglades, 570 F.3d at 1216. 

A judgment is important to Appellants because the district court can enforce it. Instead, with no offer of judgment accompanying Appellees’ settlement offers, Appellants were left with a mere promise to pay. If Appellees did not pay, Appellants faced the prospect of filing a breach of contract suit in state court with its attendant filing fees–resulting in two lawsuits instead of just one.
BTW, the 11ith noted that the Appellants' argument -- successfully adopted by the 11th -- was dismissed by the district judge as "nonsensical."

Guess that's why they have appellate courts?

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