SCOTT B. MEYROWITZ, Appellant,
ANDREW M. SCHWARTZ, P.A., Appellee.
final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
from the Circuit Court for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit,
Palm Beach County; Edward Garrison, Acting Judge; L.T. Case
Michael D. Moccia of Law Office of Michael D. Moccia, P.A.,
Boca Raton, for appellant.
M. Schwartz of Andrew M. Schwartz, P.A., Boca Raton, for
Meyrowitz appeals a final judgment awarding attorney's
fees in favor of Andrew M. Schwartz, P.A. ("the
firm") pursuant to the offer of judgment rule. Meyrowitz
argues that the proposal for settlement was untimely under
1.442(b). We agree and therefore reverse.
firm filed an action against Meyrowitz for $49, 121.07 in
unpaid legal bills. The clerk entered a default against
Meyrowitz for failure to file any pleading. On December 1,
2016, Judge Colin entered an order setting the case for a
non-jury trial on the eight week trial calendar beginning
March 20 and ending May 12, 2017. On March 1, Judge Garrison
entered an order setting the case for non-jury trial before
him on May 2. The order stated that the case "came
before the Court upon referral by Judge David French
regarding Plaintiff's Notice for Trial." The order
directed that any motions prior to trial be set before Judge
March 3, the firm served a proposal for settlement on
Meyrowitz, offering to settle the case for $38, 500.
Meyrowitz did not accept the proposal. After trial, Judge
Garrison entered a judgment in favor of the firm for $49,
121.07, the amount sought in the complaint. Based on the
judgment, the firm filed a motion for attorney's fees
pursuant to its proposal for settlement. Meyrowitz objected
on the grounds that the proposal for settlement was not
timely served pursuant to rule 1.442(b). The trial court
found that the service of the motion complied with rule 1.442
and entered an order awarding the firm $24, 825 in
appeal, Meyrowitz argues that the proposal for settlement was
not timely because it was served later than forty-five days
before the first day of the docket on which the case was set
for trial. The firm responds that affirmance is warranted
because the proposal was served two days after an order
removing the case from Judge French's trial calendar and
reassigning it to Judge Garrison for a special set trial.
novo standard of review applies in determining whether a
proposal for settlement complies with rule 1.442. Regions
Bank v. Rhodes, 126 So.3d 1259, 1260 (Fla. 4th DCA
Rule of Civil Procedure 1.442(b) states that "[n]o
proposal [for settlement] shall be served later than 45 days
before the date set for trial or the first day of the docket
on which the case is set for trial, whichever is
earlier." Rule 1.442 must be strictly construed because
it is punitive in nature in that it imposes sanctions upon
the losing party and is in derogation of the common law.
Schussel v. Ladd Hairdressers, Inc., 736 So.2d 776,
778 (Fla. 4th DCA 1999). Additionally, the rule must be
construed in accordance with the principles of statutory
construction. R.T.G. Furniture Corp. v. Coates, 93
So.3d 1151, 1153 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012). As this court has
When the language at issue is clear and unambiguous and
conveys a clear and definite meaning, there is no occasion
for resorting to the rules of statutory interpretation and
construction. Rather, the court must give unambiguous
language its plain and ordinary meaning, unless it leads to a
result that is either unreasonable or clearly contrary to
Id. (citation omitted).
stated above, rule 1.442 requires service more than "45
days before the date set for trial or the
first day of the docket on which the case is set for trial,
whichever is earlier." (emphasis
added). In this case, forty-five days before the first day of
the docket was earlier than forty-five days before the date
set for trial. Forty-five days before the May 2 trial was
March 18. However, forty-five days before the first day of
the March 20 docket was February 3. Because ...