In Kiefer v. Sunset Beach Invs., LLC, Case No.: 4D16-707 (Fla. 4th DCA Jan. 4, 2017), Kiefer served a proposal for settlement on Sunset Beach. The proposal for settlement was specifically “made by Defendant, MICHAEL E. KIEFER JR., and directed to the Plaintiff, SUNSET BEACH INVESTMENTS, LLC.” It stated that the proposal for settlement was intended “to resolve any and all claims, damages or injuries, whether known, disclosed or manifested presently or in the future on the part of [Sunset Beach] …solely as to MICHAEL E. KIEFER, JR.” The proposal also required a release. The initial paragraphs stated that it was related to the lawsuit filed by Sunset Beach against Keifer and any payment was to release this lawsuit. The fifth paragraph of the release stated that the release covers “any and all claims for attorney’s fees, costs and premiums, as a result of the incident and matters set forth in the lawsuit.” The sixth paragraph, as with many standard release forms, stated that Sunset Beach released all claims that related to the lawsuit.
The trial court found the fifth and sixth paragraphs rendered it enforceable because it was not limited to Keifer and Sunset Beach.
On appeal, the Fourth District reminded parties that they should not nit-pick the validity of a proposal for settlement unless the asserted ambiguity could reasonably affect the offeree’s decision on whether to accept the proposal for settlement.
The Court explained that the document must be viewed as a whole and noted that all nine paragraphs of the proposal showed that it related solely to Kiefer and Sunset Beach. Even though paragraphs five and six were not limited to the parties, the other paragraphs were sufficiently clear to limit the release to only parties to the litigation. Specifically, the other paragraphs included: “(1) Kiefer and Sunset Beach wish to resolve all claims; 2) Kiefer will pay a sum to Sunset Beach in exchange for his dismissal; 3) Sunset Beach would release Kiefer; and 4) Sunset Beach would file a dismissal as to Kiefer.”
Click on the link below to read Pt. I of:
Appellate Update – Fourth District Issues Two New Decisions Enforcing Proposals for Settlements
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