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Florida First DCA rules that defendants’ joint proposal for settlement was unenforceable by plaintiff since a material condition, the release of the defendants from further liability, had already been partly accomplished by one defendant’s acceptance of a proposal for settlement from the plaintiff

On March 10, 2021, in Ketterling v. Morris, No. 1D20-37, the Florida First DCA reversed a trial court ruling and held that the defendant in a motor vehicle negligence case had not made an enforceable proposal for settlement to the plaintiff under Fla. Stat, § 768.79. The two defendants in the case had served a joint proposal on the plaintiff for $20,000 to settle all claims arising out of the motor vehicle accident. On the same day the defendants served the offer on the plaintiff, the plaintiff served an offer on each of the defendants individually. Shortly before the offers were set to expire, one of the defendants filed a notice of accepting the plaintiff’s offer to settle all of her claims against that defendant. A day later, the plaintiff filed a notice of accepting the offer the defendants jointly made to her. The defendants objected to the plaintiff’s acceptance, but the plaintiff argued before the trial court that because the defendants did not withdraw the offer, it remained open. The plaintiff also argued that because the defendants did not differentiate the amount owed by each defendant toward the damages owed to her, she could assign to the defendant who had not accepted her proposal the entire amount offered. The trial court agreed, granted the plaintiff’s motion to enforce the settlement, and entered a final judgment in favor of the plaintiff. The First DCA concluded that since the defendant who accepted the plaintiff’s offer did so prior to the plaintiff accepting the defendants’ joint offer, the plaintiff would not have been able to subsequently fulfill her obligation to that defendant under the defendants’ joint offer since doing so would have involved releasing a defendant who had in fact already been released. Consequently, the First DCA ruled that the proposal was no longer valid.