Comcast’s offer to remedy all of the plaintiffs’ claims after a suit was filed in the Northern District of Illinois late last year rendered moot the same plaintiffs’ proposed class action in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, a federal judge has ruled.
Three plaintiffs — Hansen IP Law, Datascope Analytics and Robbie Simmons — filed a complaint in Illinois alleging that Comcast had charged them, as business-class customers, fees beyond what their contracts allowed, according to the Pennsylvania opinion. Comcast then offered "full and complete relief" on all of the claims, leading the plaintiffs to drop the suit.
Within days of the voluntary dismissal in the Illinois court, the plaintiffs brought the same claims in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, according to the opinion.
Since Comcast’s offer to remedy the complaints wiped out the controversy, the Eastern District lacks subject-matter jurisdiction to hear the case, U.S. District Judge Jan E. DuBois of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled.
"The controversy between the parties ended when defendant offered complete relief on January 18, 2013, and plaintiffs accordingly lacked standing to file the class complaint after that offer," DuBois said in Datascope Analytics v. Comcast Cable Communications.
Although Comcast had offered four arguments for dismissal, the court reached only the first one — that it lacked jurisdiction in the absence of a case of controversy.
With their complaint in the Eastern District, though, the plaintiffs also filed — at the same time — a motion for class certification.
They argued that Comcast’s offer for relief addressed only their claims, neglecting to address the potential class claims. They also argued that the Illinois action shouldn’t be considered by the Eastern District because that case was voluntarily dismissed without prejudice, thereby leaving them in the same position they were in before the Illinois case was filed.
Neither one persuaded the court.
Comcast had argued that it needed only to moot the individual plaintiffs’ claims, not the claims of a potential class, and it did so when it made the offer to pay back the plaintiffs for their claims.
"To sustain a class complaint, a named plaintiff must have ‘individual standing when the action was brought,’ or else ‘she cannot be regarded as a member of the class she sought to represent,’" DuBois said, quoting the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit’s 1990 opinion in Davis v. Thornburgh.
Then, he quoted from the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion issued earlier this year in Genesis HealthCare v. Symczyk, saying, "’If an intervening circumstance deprives the plaintiff of a "personal stake in the outcome of the lawsuit," at any point during litigation, the action can no longer proceed and must be dismissed as moot.’"
The Third Circuit has also held that class actions can be dismissed when the named plaintiff’s claim is mooted before he or she has filed a motion for class certification, DuBois said, citing the appeals court’s 2004 opinion in Weiss v. Regal Collections.
"In this case, it is undisputed that the January 18, 2013, offer of complete relief occurred before the filing of both the class complaint and the motion for class certification in this case," DuBois said.
He concluded that the plaintiffs’ argument that the Illinois case should be disregarded and that Comcast’s offer to remedy their claims was incomplete because it didn’t address potential claims from a class were each unavailing.
DuBois clarified, "Defendant is not required to address the potential class claims in order to moot the case."
He dismissed the class complaint.
Andrew Friedman of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll in Washington, D.C., represented the plaintiffs and couldn’t be reached for comment.
Laura Krabill of Ballard Spahr in Philadelphia represented Comcast and couldn’t be reached for comment.
(Copies of the seven-page opinion in Datascope Analytics v. Comcast Cable Communications, PICS No. 13-1121, are available from The Legal Intelligencer. Please call the Pennsylvania Instant Case Service at 800-276-PICS to order or for information.) •