final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion
under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.
appeal from the Circuit Court for Levy County. Stanley H.
Griffis, III, Judge.
Benjamin E. Richard, William A. Bald, and Michael S. Pajcic
of Pajcic & Pajcic, P.A., Jacksonville, for Appellants.
B. Spinner and Hinda Klein of Conroy Simberg, Hollywood;
Matthew Scarborough of Scarborough Attorneys at Law, Tampa,
and Virginia Basner appeal the circuit court's order
granting summary judgment for defendants/appellees Jason and
Dara Bergdoll on an issue involving a disputed release of
claims arising from a car accident. We reverse because there
was no "meeting of the minds" between the parties
on the agreement.
2017, the Basners were involved in an automobile accident
with a vehicle owned by Jason and Dara Bergdoll and driven by
their son Brett. The Bergdolls' liability insurer began
correspondence with the Basners that led to its tendering the
limits of the Bergdolls' policy in exchange for releasing
all three defendant/appellees from liability. The insurer
mailed a draft release of all claims to the Basners for them
to sign along with a $50, 000 settlement check. It instructed
the Basners that each of the Bergdolls was an insured under
the policy and should be released. The insurer also requested
that the Basners notify them of any changes to the release
prior to their revision and signature.
Basners did not follow these instructions. Rather, they
scratched out the driver-son's name throughout the draft
release, initialed each revision, signed and notarized the
revised draft release, returned it to the insurer, and held
onto the check (without cashing it). The Basners also
attached a handwritten question to the document asking:
"Do we have to release the driver?"
sending the revised draft release back to the insurer, the
Basners did not hear back. A couple months later, a new
attorney for the Basners sent a letter to the Bergdolls'
insurer returning the check and notifying it that the Basners
would be proceeding with the litigation against all of the
defendants. The insurer responded that the Basners had
already released the parent-defendants and so would be
sending the check back to them.
dispute over the release ensued. The Bergdolls moved for
summary judgment on the basis that the Basners released the
two parent-defendants from all claims arising out of the
accident. The Basners filed a cross-motion for partial
summary judgment arguing that no settlement agreement existed
because there was never "a meeting of the minds
concerning the essential terms and there was never an offer
and acceptance of the same terms." The trial court
ultimately found the release to have been effective and
granted summary judgment for the parent-defendants. It also
denied the Basners' cross-motion. The Basners filed a
Basners argue on appeal that the trial court wrongly bound
them to the terms of a draft release that the parties never
agreed to below.
"[i]nterpretation of settlement agreements is governed
by contract law, and whether an agreement constitutes a valid
contract is a matter of law subject to de novo review."
Munroe v. U.S. Food Serv., 985 So.2d 654, 655 (Fla.
1st DCA 2008). "Summary judgment is proper only if (1)
no genuine issue of material fact exists, viewing every
possible inference in favor of the party against whom summary
judgment has been entered, and (2) the moving party is
entitled to a judgment as a ...