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Florida Third DCA reverses trial court, holds that prevailing defendant was entitled to fees and costs based on plaintiff's denial of defendant's nominal proposal for settlement

On February 14, 2018, in Mount Vernon Fire Insurance Company v. New Moon Management, No. 3D16-2243, the Florida Third DCA reversed a trial court’s ruling denying a prevailing defendant insurance company’s claim for attorney’s fees and costs in a property insurance coverage dispute with its insured. Over two years after the initiation of the lawsuit and after extensive discovery, the defendant served the plaintiff property owner with a nominal proposal for settlement in the amount of $1,000 pursuant to Fla.R.Civ,P. 1.442 and Section 768.79, Florida Statutes. The defendant then filed a motion for summary judgment a week later. The trial court subsequently entered final summary judgment for the defendant but denied the defendant’s motion for fees and costs pursuant to Section 768.79, finding that the offer was not made in good faith. The Florida Third DCA disagreed, focusing on whether the defendant had a reasonable basis at the time of the offer to conclude that its exposure was nominal. The Court concluded that since the proposal was made after extensive discovery and was followed almost immediately by a well-founded and successful summary judgment motion, the trial court abused its discretion in concluding that the defendant had not acted in good faith