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Florida Second DCA affirms trial court’s denial of defense motion to enforce alleged settlement agreement involving proffered settlement check that included lienholder as additional payee

On October 28, 2020, in Suarez Trucking FL Corp.. et al. v. Souders, No. 2D19-572, the Florida Second DCA affirmed a trial court order which denied the defendant’s motion to enforce an alleged settlement agreement in a motor vehicle negligence case.  While the suit was pending, the plaintiff had submitted a proposal for settlement to the defendant for $500,000.  Upon receipt of the offer, defense counsel contacted plaintiff’s counsel to request that the settlement include the satisfaction of a worker’s compensation lien from the proceeds of the $500,000 settlement draft.  Plaintiff’s counsel “unequivocally” refused, but the defendant sent the $500,000 settlement draft anyway, which included the worker’s compensation carrier as one of the joint payees.  The defense also filed a notice of acceptance of proposal for settlement. The plaintiff never negotiated the check and after the trial court refused defendant’s request to enforce the purported settlement, the case proceeded to trial and the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff in the amount of $1960,000.  The defendant argued on appeal that the trial court erred in denying its motion to enforce the settlement agreement because the payee or payees to whom the settlement payment would be made was not an essential term of the proposal. The Second DCA concluded that there was no meeting of the minds that could form the basis for a binding agreement.  The Second DCA also rejected an argument made in dissent by Judge Atkinson that the agreement was enforceable because, prior to filing the motion to enforce the settlement agreement, the defense offered to reissue the draft excluding the worker’s compensation carrier. The majority pointed out that this was not in fact the argument made by the defense in its motion to enforce the settlement agreement, which alleged that the issuance of the initial draft constituted valid acceptance.