final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
from the Circuit Court for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit,
Palm Beach County; Edward L. Artau, Judge; L.T. Case No.
Jacqueline G. Emanuel and Mark D. Baxter of Knoerr &
Emanuel, P.A., Fort Lauderdale, for appellant.
Anthony M. Stella of Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey &
Fronrath, West Palm Beach, for appellee.
Stanley Sherman, appeals from the circuit court's order
denying his motion for attorney's fees. Defendant argues
that the court erred in finding that his proposal for
settlement was ambiguous and unenforceable. We agree and
Paul Savastano, sued defendant for injuries he sustained when
defendant's vehicle struck plaintiff in a crosswalk.
Plaintiff's wife also filed a loss of consortium claim,
but dropped her claim shortly thereafter. About a year later,
defendant served a proposal for settlement on plaintiff,
offering $200, 000 to settle. The offer provided that
"[t]he parties will execute a joint stipulation for
dismissal with prejudice of the action." Plaintiff did
not accept the offer within the statutory time frame and the
matter proceeded to trial. There, the jury found that
plaintiff's damages were $335, 000, but also found that
plaintiff was 75% at fault. After accounting for PIP setoffs
and plaintiff's comparative fault, plaintiff's total
recovery was $75, 014.13. As this was less than 75% of the
amount offered by defendant, defendant moved for
attorney's fees pursuant to his proposal for settlement.
argued that defendant's proposal was unenforceable
because it was ambiguous and did not strictly comply with the
specifications outlined in Florida Rule of Civil Procedure
1.442. Specifically, plaintiff argued that defendant's
proposal was ambiguous because it was contingent on the
execution of a "joint stipulation for dismissal"
even though there was only one plaintiff and, at any rate,
failed to provide the language of the stipulation of
hearing argument from both parties on the validity of
defendant's proposal for settlement, the court entered an
order denying defendant's motion to enforce his proposal.
The court did not expound on its reasoning in the order.
Defendant moved for rehearing, which the court also denied
without comment. This appeal follows.
review the circuit court's order declining to enforce the
proposal for settlement de novo." Kiefer v.
Sunset Beach Invs., LLC, 207 So.3d 1008, 1010 (Fla. 4th
768.79 of the Florida Statutes creates a substantive right to
attorney's fees where a plaintiff does not accept a
proposal for settlement (also known as an offer of judgment)
from the defendant and "the judgment is one of no
liability or the judgment obtained by the plaintiff is at
least 25 percent less than such offer." §
768.79(1), Fla. Stat. (2015). "The purpose of Section
768.79 is to lead litigants to settle by penalizing those who
decline offers that satisfy the statutory requirements.
Encouraging settlement lowers litigation costs for the
parties and reduces the fiscal impact of litigation on the
court system." Allstate Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co. v.
Lewis, 14 So.3d 1230, 1235 (Fla. 1st DCA 2009)
(citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
Rule of Civil Procedure 1.442 governs the form of such
proposals. Rule 1.442 requires that proposals be in writing
(A) name the party or parties making the proposal and the
party or parties to whom the proposal is being made;
(B) state that the proposal resolves all damages that would
otherwise be awarded in a final judgment in the action in
which the proposal is ...