In Zinni v. ER Solutions, Inc., — F.3d —-, 2012 WL 3641911 (11th Cir. 2012), the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ducked the issue of whether a Rule 68 offer in an FDCPA case divested the federal court of Article III case or controversy jurisdiction by finding that the defendant’s offer did not completely dispose of the Plaintiff’s claim because the offer would not allow judgment to be taken again the defendant.
Settlements often do not involve the entry of a judgment against the defendant, as compared to a judgment of dismissal, so that from the plaintiff’s perspective the willingness of the defendant to allow judgment to be entered has substantial importance since judgments are enforceable under the power of the court. Indeed, should a settlement not embodied in a judgment come unraveled, the court may be without jurisdiction to proceed in the case, which often becomes a breach of contract action for failure to comply with the settlement agreement. Even if the court retains jurisdiction, plaintiff is left to litigate a breach of contract action or, perhaps, to continue litigating the claims sought to be settled. ¶ 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 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.