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 Alachua County. Stanley H.
Griffis, III, Judge.
Rebecca B. Creed and Daniel Mahfood, Creed & Gowdy, P.A.,
Jacksonville, for Appellant.
Matthew C. Scarborough, Scarborough Attorneys at Law, Tampa,
Rosella Wilcox, appeals the trial court's order denying
her motion for attorney's fees and costs filed pursuant
to section 768.79, Florida Statutes (2015), and Florida Rule
of Civil Procedure 1.442, both of which address offers of
judgment. Appellant argues that the trial court erred by
interpreting the term "postoffer settlement" in
section 768.79(6) to mean settlement after the time for
accepting the offer expires. For the reasons that follow, we
agree and reverse.
filed a complaint against Jason Neville and Appellee, Michael
Neville, for damages based on a 2015 motor vehicle collision,
alleging that she was struck and injured by a vehicle that
was owned by Jason and was negligently operated by Appellee.
On May 2, 2017, Appellant filed a separate notice of serving
a proposal for settlement ("PFS") as to each
defendant pursuant to section 768.79 and rule 1.442. On May
17, 2017, Jason filed a notice of acceptance of
Appellant's proposal to resolve her claim against him for
$60, 400. Appellant, in turn, dismissed her claim against
Jason. Appellee allowed the proposal for settlement to expire
and the parties proceeded to trial. The jury returned a
verdict for Appellant in the amount of $126, 592.33.
moved for an award of attorney's fees and costs pursuant
to section 768.79 and rule 1.442. The parties agreed that
Appellee was entitled to set-offs for Personal Injury
Protection ("PIP") benefits and the settlement with
Jason, and they agreed on the amount of the final judgment to
be entered for Appellant. They disagreed, however, about
Appellant's entitlement to attorney's fees based on
their divergent interpretation of the phrase "postoffer
settlement" in section 768.79(6). Specifically, the
disputed issue was whether Jason's acceptance of
Appellant's proposal for settlement constituted a
"postoffer settlement" that should be added to the
net judgment under section 768.79(6).
trial court explained in its order on the motion that the net
judgment was $58, 865.73, which resulted from deducting the
$60, 400 settlement with Jason and the $7, 326.60 PIP
benefits from the $126, 592.33 verdict. If Jason's
settlement was added back to the net judgment as a
"postoffer settlement," the judgment obtained would
be $119, 265.73, which "figure would exceed $112,
000.00, which is 25% more than the $89, 600.00 PFS offered to
[Appellee], thereby entitling [Appellant] to statutory fees
and costs." The court found, however, that Jason's
settlement during Appellee's thirty-day acceptance period
was not a postoffer settlement and reasoned:
The entire statute must be read together. The Florida
Legislature intended every PFS to remain open and valid for
an opposing party's consideration a full 30 days.
Plaintiff's position would eliminate the 30 day
consideration period required by section 768.79(1), Fla.
Stat. Taken literally, Plaintiff's proposed rule would
bar a similarly situated Defendant from the statutory
opportunity to evaluate a co-defendant's decision to
accept or reject another PFS during the same 30 day statutory
the trial court denied Appellant's motion for
attorney's fees and costs and entered a final judgment
against Appellee in the amount of $58, 865.73. This appeal
review of a trial court's ruling on a motion for
attorney's fees and costs filed pursuant to section
768.79 is de novo. Tierra Holdings, Ltd. v.
Mercantile Bank, 78 So.3d 558, 561 (Fla. 1st DCA 2011).
We likewise review a trial court's interpretation of a
statute de novo. Id. The polestar of statutory
interpretation is legislative intent, which is to be
determined by first looking at the actual language used in
the statute. Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart &
Shipley v. State, 209 So.3d 1181, 1189 (Fla. 2017). If
the statutory language is clear and unambiguous, we may not
resort to the rules of statutory construction and must give
the statute its plain and obvious meaning. Id. We
must give effect to all parts of the statute and avoid
readings that would render a part thereof meaningless.
Id. We may not construe a statute in a way that
would extend, ...