by Brian Wolfman
Scott posted earlier on today's Supreme Court decision in the Genesis HealthCare. I want to dissent from the idea that the decision is necessarily "quite bad" for people seeking to vindicate their rights under the Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA). Today's ruling is premised on the assumption that an unaccepted offer from the defendant to the plaintiff of "complete relief" on the plaintiff's individual claim mooted that claim. (The Court made this assumption because, the Court says, the plaintiff conceded the point below and did not contest it until its Supreme Court merits brief.) With that premise in mind, the Court then holds that the entire FLSA collective action is moot.
But as Justice Kagan's punchy and powerful dissent shows, the premise is dead wrong: an unaccepted offer does not moot the plaintiff's individual claim. Justice Kagan's dissent, I believe, could have considerable sway in the lower courts (some of which have already decided the individual mootness question and some of which have not). If Justice Kagan's view ultimately holds, the Genesis decision may have little practical effect (as her dissent argues). After all, if the lead plaintiff's claim is not moot, then the representative action will remain alive.