Miley v. Nash, 40 Fla. Law Weekly D991 (Fla. 2d DCA July 10, 2015)

This case arose from a motor vehicle accident involving Plaintiff Martha Nash and Defendant Kyle Miley. Mrs. Nash and her husband filed suit against Miley and her father, who owned the vehicle which she was driving at the time of the accident. During the course of the case, Miley served a Proposal for Settlement directed solely to Mrs. Nash, offering to pay to “resolve all claims . . . brought by (Nash) against (Miley).” The Proposal required that Nash dismiss both Miley and her father from the lawsuit, in exchange for settlement funds, and that each party bear his/her own fees and costs. The Proposal was silent with respect to the loss of consortium claim.

Miley’s husband dropped his Loss of Consortium claim prior to trial. The case proceeded to trial, resulting in a verdict which was substantially less than the amount offered in the PFS. Defendants filed a motion seeking fees and costs pursuant to the Proposal. The trial court denied same, holding that the Proposal was deficient for allegedly failing to identify the claim(s) the proposal attempted to resolve, failing to address the LOC claim, failing to state with particularity any relevant conditions, failing to apportion the amount of the proposed settlement and terms applicable to each party and requiring the dismissal of both defendants without apportioning the amount of the settlement between the two defendants.

The Second DCA found that the Proposal for Settlement was valid. Specifically, the court held that: (1) The Proposal sufficiently identified the claims to be resolved; (2) It was not necessary for the Proposal to address the husband’s Consortium claim, because even though it was derivative in nature, it was a separate and distinct claim; (3) The relevant conditions of the Proposal were included and were sufficiently described, i.e. the exact amount Miley would pay, the exact claims which would be resolved, the exact action to be taken by Nash, etc.; and (4) The Proposal did not need to apportion any amount attributable to Miley’s father, despite the fact that it required Nash to dismiss her claims against him, because the only claim against the father was for vicarious liability.

The Florida Supreme Court has previously held, in the case of  Audiffred v. Arnold, 161 So.3d 1274 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2015), that “when a single offeror submits a settlement proposal to a single offeree . . . and the offer resolves pending claims by or against additional parties who are neither offerors nor offerees, it constitutes a joint proposal that is subject to the apportionment requirement . . . “. Id. at 1280. In this case, because the offer would have resolved claims pending against both defendants, it would be considered a joint offer. However, Audiffred concerned a previous version of rule 1.442 that was not at issue in this case. Rule 1.442 (Proposal for Settlement Rule) was amended effective January 1, 2011, adding that “when a party is alleged to be solely vicariously . . . liable . . . a joint proposal made by or served on such a party need not state the apportionment or contributions as to that party.” Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.442(c)(4). Therefore, while the Mileys proposal was a joint one, because Glenn Miley was solely vicariously liable for the claims asserted, no apportionment was necessary.