BLACK, Circuit Judge:
This consolidated appeal
Zinni filed a complaint on July 2, 2010, alleging that ER Solutions, Inc. violated the FDCPA by causing his phone "to ring repeatedly or continuously with the intent to annoy, abuse or harass in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1692d(5)," and by failing to make disclosures required by §§ 1692d(6) and 1692e(11). Zinni alleged ER Solutions had left him more than 50 voice mail messages in the course of attempting to collect a debt. Zinni requested damages, attorneys' fees, and costs under the FDCPA, as well as judgment in his favor and against ER Solutions.
On January 10, 2011, ER Solutions e-mailed a settlement offer to Zinni's counsel. In the e-mail, ER Solutions offered $1,001 to resolve Zinni's claims under the FDCPA, plus reasonable attorneys' fees and costs to be determined by the court.
On February 23, 2011, ER Solutions filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). ER Solutions asserted that because it had offered Zinni everything he was entitled to under the FDCPA, his FDCPA claim was moot and should be dismissed with prejudice.
The district court granted ER Solutions' motion and dismissed the case with prejudice, explaining that "[o]nce the defendant offers to satisfy the plaintiff's entire demand, there is no dispute over which to litigate." The district court acknowledged that Zinni had never accepted ER Solutions' offer, but rejected as "nonsensical" Zinni's argument that, had he accepted ER Solutions' offer, he would have been left with nothing but an unenforceable promise. The district court concluded it was "Plaintiff's failure to accept the offer that creates these issues in the first place," because "[i]f Plaintiff accepts the offer, it becomes a binding agreement that can be
Dellapietro filed a complaint on February 18, 2011, alleging that ARS National Services, Inc. (ARS) left messages on her voice mail identifying itself only as "ARS," and stating that it was "very important" that ARS speak to her "right away." The message did not disclose the purpose of the call other than to state it was "not a telemarketing or sales call." The complaint alleged that ARS failed to meaningfully disclose its identity, purpose for calling, or disclose its status as a debt collector as required by 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692d(6) and 1692e(11). Dellapietro requested damages, attorneys' fees, and costs under the FDCPA, as well as judgment in her favor and against ARS.
On February 23, 2011, ARS e-mailed Dellapietro's counsel an offer to settle the FDCPA claims for $1,001 and "reasonable attorneys' fees and costs." The e-mail stated, "[i]f we are unable to agree on attorneys' fees and costs, we will agree to submit that issue to the court for resolution." Dellapietro did not respond to the offer. On April 20, 2011, ARS filed a motion to dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). The district court granted the motion in an order virtually identical to the one in Zinni, finding that ARS had "offered more than Plaintiff is entitled to recover under the FDCPA, thereby mooting the FDCPA claim."
Desty filed a complaint on January 27, 2011, alleging that Collection Information Bureau, Inc. (CIB) repeatedly left automated voice mail messages on her cellular phone. The caller identified himself as "Ted Lee" and stated that he had an "important message" for her and that he "must speak with [her] as soon as possible regarding [her] account number." Desty alleged CIB failed to meaningfully disclose its identity, purpose for calling, or identify itself as a debt collector as required by 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692d(6) and 1692e(11). She also alleged CIB caused her "telephone to ring repeatedly or continuously with the intent to annoy, abuse or harass in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1692d(5)," and used an automated dialer to repeatedly call her cellular phone in a manner "the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse" in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1692d.
On March 7, 2011, CIB offered via e-mail to settle Desty's case for $1,001, "plus reasonable attorney's fees and court costs." The e-mail stated that if the parties were "unable to reach an agreement
When Desty did not respond to the offer, CIB moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). The district court granted CIB's motion in an order virtually identical to the orders in Zinni and Dellapietro.
The issue before us is whether Appellees' settlement offers for the full amount of statutory damages requested under the FDCPA rendered Appellants' claims moot, requiring their dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1).
Article III of the United States Constitution limits the jurisdiction of federal courts to cases and controversies. Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 94, 88 S.Ct. 1942, 1949, 20 L.Ed.2d 947 (1968). "[T]here are three strands of justiciability doctrine — standing, ripeness, and mootness — that go to the heart of the Article III case or controversy requirement." Christian Coal. of Fla., Inc. v. United States, 662 F.3d 1182, 1189 (11th Cir.2011) (quotations omitted). With regard to mootness, the Supreme Court has explained "a federal court has no authority to give opinions upon moot questions or abstract propositions, or to declare principles or rules of law which cannot affect the matter in issue in the case before it." Church of Scientology of Cal. v. United States, 506 U.S. 9, 12, 113 S.Ct. 447, 449, 121 L.Ed.2d 313 (1992) (quotations omitted). "An issue is moot when it no longer presents a live controversy with respect to which the court can give meaningful relief." Friends of Everglades v. S. Fla. Water Mgmt. Dist., 570 F.3d 1210, 1216 (11th Cir.2009) (quotations omitted).
Appellants contend that the settlement offers were not for the full relief requested because Appellees did not offer to have judgment entered against them as part of the settlement. Thus, Appellants argue, the settlement offers were insufficient to moot their claims. Appellees respond that their offers were for the full amount of statutory damages plus attorneys' fees and costs, and argue that the lack of an offer of judgment does not preclude a mootness finding.
Offers for the full relief requested have been found to moot a claim. See Greisz v. Household Bank (Ill.), N.A., 176 F.3d 1012, 1015 (7th Cir.1999) ("By [submitting an offer of judgment to plaintiff for] $1,200 plus reasonable costs and attorney's fees, the bank ... was offering her more than her claim was worth to her in a pecuniary sense. Such an offer, by giving the plaintiff the equivalent of a default judgment ... eliminates a legal dispute upon which federal jurisdiction can be based."); Rand v. Monsanto Co., 926 F.2d 596, 598 (7th Cir.1991) ("Once the defendant offers to satisfy the plaintiff's entire demand, there is no dispute over which to litigate, and a plaintiff who refuses to acknowledge this loses outright, under Fed. R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), because he has no remaining stake.") (citations omitted). Those cases are distinguishable, however, because the defendants there offered the full relief requested — the full amount of
The Fourth Circuit has held that the failure to offer the full relief requested prevented the mooting of a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) claim. Simmons v. United Mortg. & Loan Inv., LLC, 634 F.3d 754, 766 (4th Cir.2011). There, the district court dismissed a case as moot when the defendants made a settlement offer "for full relief, including attorney's fees and taxable costs." Id. at 762. The Fourth Circuit reversed because the settlement offer, while purporting to offer "full relief," did not include an offer of judgment against the defendants. Id. at 764. The court explained that from a plaintiff's view, a judgment in his or her favor "is far preferable to a contractual promise" to pay the same amount "because district courts have inherent power to compel defendants to satisfy judgments against them ... but lack the power to enforce the terms of a settlement agreement absent jurisdiction over a breach of contract action for failure to comply with the settlement agreement." Id. at 765. The court cited language from Federal Practice and Procedure to further illustrate the importance of a judgment:
Id. (quoting 12 Wright, Miller, & Marcus, Federal Practice and Procedure § 3002, p. 90 (2d ed. 1997)). The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's finding of mootness, holding "the failure of the Defendants to make their attempted offer for full relief in the form of an offer of judgment prevented the mooting of the Plaintiffs' FLSA claims." Id. at 766.
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
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.
We hold the failure of Appellees to offer judgment prevented the mooting of Appellants' FDCPA claims.