As attorneys and claims representatives, we are always mindful of Proposals for Settlement. We often get questions concerning what is the last day the client can safely serve the Proposal. In Meyrowitz v. Schwartz, 2018 Fla. App. LEXIS 2943 (Fla. 4th DCA 2018), the Fourth District Court of Appeal recently considered this question. On December 1, 2016, a judge entered an order setting a case for trial on the eight-week calendar beginning March 20, 2017 and ending May 12, 2017. On March 1, 2017, a different judge set the case for trial on May 2, 2017. The Appellant served a Proposal for Settlement on March 3, 2017. After trial, trial court found that the proposal was timely because it was not served later than 45 days before trial.
However, the appellate court reversed. It found that the Proposal was served later than 45 days before the first day of the docket on which the case was set for trial. Rule 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.” Even though trial did not start until May 2, 2017, the trial period in the order setting trial began on March 20, 2017. “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.” The fact that a second trial order – specifically setting trial for March 2, 2017 – was rendered before the Proposal was served, did not change the court’s analysis because trial still occurred during the originally set eight-week period. Thus, the Proposal was directed towards that time period listed in the first order.
It is critical to calculate the 45-day service time-period from the first day of the docket on which the case is set for trial. It is also important to recognize that an initial trial order setting a lengthy trial docket will not be mooted in terms of Rule 1.442(b) based on a subsequent trial order setting a specific trial date. This is especially important in counties like Palm Beach where that Court routinely sets eight-week trial periods.
If you have any questions about this case or would like to refer an appellate matter, please contact our appellate attorneys.