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Florida Fourth DCA rules that trial court’s admission in bad faith UIM case of evidence of plaintiff’s previous unaccepted settlement offer at mediation was reversible error

On September 9, 2020, in Moultrop v. Geico General Insurance Company, No. 4D19-225, the Florida Fourth DCA reversed a judgment in favor of the defendant insurance company in a bad faith uninsured motorist (UM) case which the carrier’s insureds had filed against it. The issues on which the reversal was based included an alleged error by the trial court in admitting the UM carrier’s activity log note memorializing the plaintiffs’ settlement offer of $500,000 at mediation. The Fourth DCA noted that the UM carrier’s introduction of the plaintiffs’ settlement offer of $500,000 at mediation, which was 10 times higher than $50,000 UM limits, was solely to demonstrate that the plaintiffs, not the UM carrier, acted in bad faith. The Fourth DCA concluded that the evidence was erroneously admitted because it was irrelevant to the issue in the case. The Court stated that “[i]It is well established that ‘the focus in a bad faith case is not on the actions of the claimant, but rather on those of the insurer in fulfilling its obligations to the insured, quoting from Harvey v. Geico Gen. Ins. Co., 259 So. 3d 1, 7 (Fla. 2018). The Court additionally ruled that the evidence was inadmissible under §90.408, Florida Statutes, because it was evidence of an offer to compromise, as well as under § 44.405, Florida Statutes, because it was a mediation communication.