In Atl. Civ., Inc. v. Swift, Case No. 3D15-1594 (Fla. 3d DCA Mar. 1, 2017), the Third District considered the plaintiff’s single proposal for settlement made to both of the defendants in an action for conversion. The proposal sought to resolve all claims brought by the plaintiff against the defendants. The proposal referred to them collectively as “defendants” and apportioned amounts to settle the claims against each of them. As a non-monetary term, the proposal included a request for mutual general releases from each defendant.
The defendants objected to proposal arguing that it was ambiguous because it appeared to be conditioned upon acceptance by both of the defendants. The trial court agreed and denied plaintiff’s motion for fees. The Third District, however, disagreed and reversed.
The Court looked at the complete language of the proposal and the attached general release forms. It found no requirement that both defendants must agree in order to effectuate settlement. The settlement amount was proportioned between the two defendants. Interpreting the plaintiff’s use of the collective “defendants” in the proposal did not create an ambiguity that could have reasonably affected the offerees’ decisions. Interpreting the language otherwise would involve the type of “nitpicking” that the Florida Supreme Court’s decision of Anderson v. Hilton Hotels Corp., 202 So. 3d 846 (Fla. 2016) expressly warns against. Thus, the proposal was sufficiently clear and definite to allow each appellee to make an informed decision as to whether to settle.
Click on the link to read Pt. I of: Appellate Update – Courts Reject Attempts to Nit-pick Proposals for Settlement
Click on the link to read Pt. II of: Appellate Update – Courts Reject Attempts to Nit-pick Proposals for Settlement
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