Jacobson v. Credit Control Services

Topic(s): 
Consumer Justice
Documents:
Case Description: 

This case raised the question whether an unaccepted offer of judgment mooted a plaintiff’s claims where the offer was not for complete relief at the time it was made, but later, after the offer expired, the plaintiff reduced her demands to a level that would have been satisfied by the offer had it still been open.

The plaintiff, Rose Jacobson, filed a complaint against a debt collector under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, claiming that the debt collector had violated the statute by reporting the debt to credit reporting agencies without telling them that it was disputed. The complaint did not specify the damages sought and did not limit them to the $1,000 in statutory damages available under the FDCPA. The defendant made an offer of judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 68 for $1,001 plus attorney’s fees—slightly more than the plaintiff could recover as statutory damages under the FDCPA. Ms. Jacobson did not accept the offer. She later disclaimed seeking actual damages in the lawsuit. At that point, although the offer was no longer open, the defendant moved to dismiss the case as moot on the ground that the expired offer would have been adequate to provide complete relief because she had disclaimed actual damages. The district court granted the motion and dismissed the case as moot, although M.s Jacobson had received no relief at all.

Public Citizen served as co-counsel for Ms. Jacobson on appeal to the Tenth Circuit. On behalf of Ms. Jacobson, we argued that an unaccepted offer of judgment for complete relief does not moot a claim and that, in any event, the offer here was not an offer of complete relief because it did not offer her everything she sought at the time the offer was made. We also argued that, even if an offer that would provide complete relief can serve as a basis for terminating an individual plaintiff’s claim involuntarily, it can do so only if the court enters judgment in the amount of the offer.

Based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Campbell-Ewald v. Gomez, the Tenth Circuit ruled for Ms. Jacobson and remanded the case back to the district court.