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Tanasi v. New Alliance Bank

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

May 14, 2015

PATRICK TANASI, ON BEHALF OF HIMSELF AND OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
NEW ALLIANCE BANK, FIRST NIAGARA FINANCIAL GROUP, INC., Defendants-Appellants

Argued February 25, 2015.

As Amended May 21, 2015.

Interlocutory appeal from decision and order entered on August 27, 2013, by the United States District Court for the Western District of New York (Skretny, C.J.), denying the defendants' motion to dismiss in part on the grounds that the plaintiff's putative class action claims remained justiciable even though the plaintiff's individual claims were rendered moot by an unaccepted offer of complete relief made pursuant to Rule 68 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. We AFFIRM the district court's denial of the defendants' motion to dismiss on the alternative ground that the plaintiff's individual claims were not rendered moot by the unaccepted Rule 68 offer because the district court had not entered judgment against the defendants. We decline to decide whether the plaintiff's putative class action claims brought pursuant to Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provided an independent basis for Article III justiciability.

STEPHEN J. FEARON, JR., Squitieri & Fearon, LLP, New York, NY, for Plaintiff--Appellee.

HUGH M. RUSS, III, Hodgson Russ LLP, Buffalo, NY, for Defendants--Appellants.

Adina H. Rosenbaum, Scott L. Nelson, Washington, DC, for Amicus Curiae Public Citizen, Inc.

Before: KATZMANN, Chief Judge, WALKER and CHIN, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 196

Katzmann, Chief Judge :

Plaintiff Patrick Tanasi filed a putative class action against the defendants, First Niagara Financial Group, Inc. and New Alliance Bank. Soon after, the defendants offered to settle Tanasi's individual claims pursuant to Rule 68 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (" Federal Rules" ) for an amount greater than the statutory damages to which Tanasi would have been entitled if successful. After Tanasi refused to accept the offer, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss arguing, inter alia, that the unaccepted Rule 68 offer rendered Tanasi's individual and putative class action claims moot. The United States District Court for the Western District of New York (Skretny, C.J. ) denied the defendants' motion to dismiss on this basis, holding that although Tanasi's individual claims were rendered moot by the unaccepted Rule 68 offer, his putative class action claims were not.[1]

Page 197

We AFFIRM the district court's ultimate conclusion that the unaccepted Rule 68 offer did not render Tanasi's case moot, but we do so on an alternative ground. Specifically, we hold that the district court maintained Article III subject matter jurisdiction over the case because, under the law of our Circuit, an unaccepted Rule 68 offer alone does not render a plaintiff's individual claims moot before the entry of judgment against the defendants. The district court therefore maintained Article III subject matter jurisdiction over the case regardless of Tanasi's putative class action claims. Accordingly, because it is unnecessary to the disposition of this case, we refrain from reaching the certified question of whether putative class action claims brought under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules generally provide an independent basis for Article III justiciability.[2]

Background

On July 9, 2012, Patrick Tanasi filed a putative nationwide class action against the defendants, First Niagara Financial Group, Inc. and its predecessor in interest New Alliance Bank, seeking money damages arising from the purportedly improper assessment of overdraft fees on his account and the accounts of others similarly situated. Tanasi did not file a ...


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