The Tenth Circuit dismissedWinzler v. Toyota Motor Sales (No. 10-4151) as moot. The dismissal was based on the fact that after Ms. Winzler sued Toyota, alleging that certain cars had defective engine control modules, Toyota initiated a recall to repair the modules that was overseen by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
The Tenth Circuit obsereved that "Mootness has many moods . . . . In some cases mootness bears a constitutional countenance, acting as a jurisdictional bar against even entertaining a case. Other times mootness carries a more prudential complexion, permitting us to withhold relief we have the authority to grant. Other times still, a case finds itself mooted by a tangle of constitutional and prudential considerations.”
In Winzler, the court determined the case was moot as the “plaintiff seeks equitable relief already being provided by coordinate branches of government and she offers no reason why the courts should duplicate those efforts.” The court noted that “once the plaintiff has a remedial promise from a coordinate branch in hand, we will generally decline to add the promise of a judicial remedy to the heap.” It further observed that “[t]o be sure, promises of reform or remedy aren’t often sufficient to render a case moot as a constitutional matter. That’s because the risk always exists that, as soon the court turns its back, the defendant might renounce his promise and ‘return to his old ways’ . . . . But even when the risk of recalcitrance is injury enough to keep the case alive as an Article III matter, it isn’t necessarily enough to avoid the application of prudential mootness doctrine. “
Notably, the court carefully analyzed whether Winzler would be left without complete relief, noting that “while equity may not require us to duplicate efforts of the other branches it hardly insists we run the risk of leaving a plaintiff without a remedy she’s entitled to. In seeking to avoid one set of wrongs (needless duplication and inter-branch disputes) we cannot ignore the possibility of inviting what may be even a greater one (leaving the plaintiff without a remedy in a meritorious case).”