VERY Belated Friday Florida Law Update

Hello all, and thanks for patiently awaiting your Friday Florida Law Update!  Today for our visual aid we bring you the good hands of Allstate, because we are reviewing a case in which a court placed some money into those good hands!

Any loyal followers know that I am a sucker for cases interpreting Florida’s “offer of judgment” statute, the law which appears simple at first but in reality is anything but.  As a quick refresher, the offer of judgment statute permits parties to tender binding settlement offers in advance of trial.  If the receiving party turns down the offer and then obtains a verdict greater than 25% worse than what was offered, that party must pay the offeror’s attorney’s fees from the date of the offer.  Simple enough, right?  Not exactly!

In Allstate Ins. Co. v. Staszower, 2011 WL 2031335 (May 25, 2011), the Fourth District Court of Appeal reviewed an auto accident case.  Two injured parties sued the driver and his uninsured/underinsured motorist carrier, Allstate.  The driver had $10,000 in liability insurance, after which Allstate would be liable.  Believing that liability would not exceed $10,000, Allstate tendered $100 offers of judgment to each Plaintiff.  The Plaintiffs turned them down.  At trial, only one Plaintiff prevailed, and for only $1,670 in damages at that.  However, the trial court held that Plaintiffs were the prevailing parties and thus awarded them their costs (over $12,000) against both the driver and Allstate.  The trial court denied Allstate’s motion for attorney’s fees pursuant to its offer of judgment. 

On appeal, the Fourth DCA fixed this mess.  The appellate court entered the cost judgment against the driver only, and found that Allstate was the prevailing party against the Plaintiffs, entering judgment against the Plaintiffs for Allstate’s fees. 

In doing so, the Fourth DCA applied the offer of judgment statute logically.  Where an insurer’s liability only kicks in after a judgment of X dollars, the insurer’s offer of judgment applies such that the offer (“O”), for purposes of determining who is the prevailing party, is in reality the sum of X + O. 

 

DISCLOSURE:

THE COMMENTS ON THIS BLOG DO NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE.  NOR DO THEY CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP.  They are provided for informational purposes only.  Actual legal advice can only be provided after consultation with an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.
Explore posts in the same categories: Florida Law Updates

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