SCOTUS Dodges Ultimate Question on Rule 68 Mootness in Genesis Healthcare
This is a follow-up from our earlier post discussing the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the appeal in Genesis HealthCare Corp. v. Symczyk and our prediction that the Court’s decision could impact the viability of future FLSA litigation. Well, as it turns out, we could not have been more wrong. In an extremely narrow 5-4 decision, the Court refused to decide whether the unaccepted Rule 68 offer of judgment actually rendered Ms. Symcyzk’s individual FLSA claim moot, instead assuming that the claim was moot because she conceded the issue in the courts below and subsequently waived the argument on appeal. No. 11-1059, ___ S. Ct. ___, 2013 WL 1567370 (April 16, 2013).
Because the Court “assumed, without deciding” that the plaintiff’s individual claim was moot, the larger question left to resolve was whether the lawsuit could remain viable based on the FLSA collective action allegations. The Court held that it did not because “the mere presence of [such] allegations in the complaint cannot save the suit from mootness once the individual claim is satisfied.” In “[a] straightforward application of well-settled mootness principles,” the Court explicitly distinguished its Rule 23 precedent—on which Symcyzk had relied—as legally and factually inapposite.
As far as our previous prediction on the implications of the this decision, the Court’s failure to address whether an unaccepted offer of judgment under Rule 68 moots an FLSA claim means that the current circuit split on this issue remains unresolved, and gives this decision little precedential value. As the dissent noted, “The majority’s decision is fit for nothing: Aside from getting this case wrong, it serves only to address a make-believe problem.”
While we think that’s a little harsh, it does leave intact the status quo for those litigating FLSA claims. Please refer back to our previous post for the current state of the law in Missouri and Kansas federal courts on the issue.