McBroom v. Syndicated Office Systems, LLC

Filing 9

ORDER granting Plaintiff's 7 Motion to Strike Offer of Judgment. The Court STRIKES Defendant's offer of judgment as invalid. Signed by U.S. District Judge John C Coughenour. (TH)

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THE HONORABLE JOHN C. COUGHENOUR 1 2 3 4 5 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT SEATTLE 7 8 9 10 CHARLES MCBROOM, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, CASE NO. C18-0102-JCC ORDER Plaintiff, 11 v. 12 13 14 SYNDICATED OFFICE SYSTEMS, LLC, d/b/a CENTRAL FINANCIAL CONTROL, Defendant. 15 16 17 This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff’s unopposed motion to strike Defendant’s 18 offer of judgment (Dkt. No. 7). Having thoroughly considered the relevant record, the Court 19 finds oral argument unnecessary and GRANTS the motion for the reasons explained herein. 20 On January 24, 2018 Plaintiff filed a class action against Defendant for violations of the 21 Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). (Dkt. No. 1.) On February 15, 2018, Defendant 22 made an offer of judgment to Plaintiff of $1001.00, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 68. (Dkt. No. 7-1.) The Court has yet to rule on class certification. Plaintiff moved for an order 24 striking Defendant’s offer of judgment as invalid. (Dkt. No. 7 at 1.) Defendant did not respond. 25 The Court agrees with Plaintiff that Defendant’s offer of judgment is an improper attempt 26 to “pick off” class members, and as such, is invalid. See Clausen Law Firm, PLLC v. Nat’l Acad. ORDER C18-0102-JCC PAGE - 1 1 of Continuing Legal Educ., 827 F. Supp. 2d 1262, 1268 (W.D. Wash. 2010) (disfavoring use of 2 Rule 68 to “pick off” named plaintiffs before class certification). Numerous courts have found 3 that pre-certification offers of judgment directed solely to class representatives create an 4 “improper conflict of interest between the putative class representative and the putative class.” 5 Marvis v. RSI Ent., Inc., 303 F.R.D. 561, 566 (D. Ariz. 2014); see also Slovin v. Sunrum, Inc., 6 Case No. C15-5340-YGR, slip op. at 3 (N.D. Cal. July 7, 2017) (offers of judgment to class 7 representatives create improper conflicts of interest); Steadman v. Bassett Furniture Indus., Inc., 8 Case No. C13-0308-JAH, slip op. at 8 (S.D. Cal. Mar. 27, 2014) (same). 9 Rule 68 provides that a plaintiff who rejects a pretrial offer of settlement and ultimately 10 recovers less than the offer must pay Defendant’s costs incurred after making the offer. Fed. R. 11 Civ. P. 68(d). Plaintiff’s individual recovery under FDCPA is limited to $1000. See 15 U.S.C. If 12 he rejects Defendant’s offer of $1001.00 and the proposed class is not certified, Plaintiff will 13 necessarily be liable for Defendant’s costs even if he prevails on the merits. Fed. R. Civ. P. 14 68(d). Defendant’s offer is an unveiled attempt to force Plaintiff to abandon the interests of the 15 purported class in order to protect his own. Such an offer cannot be considered valid. 16 Consistent with its authority to manage the purported class action in a manner consistent 17 with the purposes of Rule 23, the Court therefore STRIKES Defendant’s offer of judgment as 18 invalid. See Steadman, Case No. C13-0308-JAH at 8 (striking offer of judgment is a “practical 19 and effective means to acknowledge an offer is invalid, to protect the putative class members, 20 and to manage the class action”). 21 DATED this 9th day of April 2018. A 22 23 24 John C. Coughenour UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 25 26 ORDER C18-0102-JCC PAGE - 2

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