Monday, July 12, 2010

Fourth District Reverses Oder Finding Offer of Judgment To Be Ambiguous

In Donovan Marine, Inc. v. Delmonico (4D09-897), the Fourth District reversed the trial court's order finding a proposal for settlement ambiguous.  In this case:
The plaintiff filed a complaint against two defendants; one defendant was the employee of the other. The complaint alleged that the employee had made defamatory statements and the employer was vicariously liable. The employee admitted to making the statement.
The defendants served a joint proposal for settlement, pursuant to section 768.79, Florida Statutes and Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.442. The proposal offered the plaintiff $20,000 in exchange for the dismissal with prejudice of both defendants. It also required, among other things, that “[t]he writing evidencing acceptance of this proposal must include the explicit acknowledgement by the plaintiff that by making this proposal, defendants are not admitting that they have said or done anything improper referable to the plaintiff, and that the defendants are attempting to purchase their peace from this plaintiff.”  The plaintiff rejected the proposal, but ultimately settled with the employee.
The trial court found the proposal to be ambiguous due to the language "that the defendants are attempting to purchase their peace from this plaintiff." However, the Fourth District disagreed.  The court stated:
Rather than be ambiguous, the defendants specifically directed the language to be contained within the written acceptance. Reading the paragraph as a whole, the last phrase merely explains why the defendants were willing to pay $20,000....“Ambiguity is defined as ‘the condition of admitting more than one meaning.’”...Here, the plaintiff has not suggested a second meaning to the allegedly ambiguous phrase.


Post a Comment