Florida Court Finds Issue of Fact as to Whether Parties Agreed to Settle

In car accident cases where liability is clear it is often easier and more efficient to agree to settle. While theoretically settling a case is easier than proceeding with litigation, there must be clear evidence of an agreement to settle and the agreed upon terms for a case to be disposed of via settlement.

The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida rejected a defendant’s motion for summary judgment asking the court to dismiss a case due to a settlement agreement, on the grounds that an issue of fact existed as to whether a valid agreement was entered into by the parties. If you suffered harm due to a car accident in South Florida, you should speak with an experienced car accident attorney to develop a plan for seeking compensation.

Settlement Negotiations

Allegedly, the defendant rear-ended a car driven by a second driver, causing it to rear-end a car driven by the plaintiff. The plaintiff’s son was in the car at the time of the accident. The plaintiff’s attorney subsequently sent a settlement demand to a claims adjuster for the defendant’s auto insurer, stating the plaintiff and his son would settle the case for the defendant’s policy limit of $20,000 if the defendant provided affidavits verifying that there was no other insurance covering the defendant and that the defendant was not acting in the scope of her employment at the time of the accident. The demand also set forth a deadline for the insurer to reply.

It is reported that the insurer responded via a letter stating that it agreed to tender the insurance limits, but stated there was other insurance covering the defendant, and that it wanted to coordinate a global settlement agreement. The insurer then sent a second letter after the deadline to respond to the settlement demand had passed, stating the claim was settled for $5,700 and enclosing a check and a release. The plaintiff never cashed the check or signed the release. The plaintiff’s attorney then sent a letter to the plaintiff’s insurer advising them that the plaintiff and defendant had come to a settlement agreement and asking the insurer to approve the agreement. The insurer approved the settlement via a letter. The plaintiff then filed a lawsuit against the defendant. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that the case had been settled prior to litigation.

Evidence of a Valid Settlement Agreement

The court stated that for the acceptance of an offer to result in a contract there must be a clear acceptance of the exact terms set forth in the offer, within the time and mode set forth in the offer. Here, the court noted that the offer in question required the defendant to reply within a certain time frame and provide affidavits regarding her insurance, which she did not do. As such, the court found there was no acceptance of the offer. The court noted, however, that there was some evidence of a settlement agreement. For example, the plaintiff’s attorney did not dispute the letter from the defendant’s insurer stating the case had been settled. Additionally, he advised the plaintiff’s insurer the claim had been settled. As such, the court held that a genuine issue of fact existed as to whether the claim had been settled and denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

Meet with an Experienced South Florida Car Accident Attorney to Discuss Your Case

If you suffered harm due to a South Florida car accident, it is important to retain an experienced car accident attorney to assist you in your pursuit of damages so that your case is handled properly. The South Florida personal injury attorneys of Donaldson & Weston will vigorously pursue the full extent of damages you may be owed. We can be reached at 772-266-5555 or 561-299-3999 to schedule a free and confidential meeting.

More Blog Posts:

Florida Court Overturns Verdict in Favor of Plaintiff Due to Trial Court’s Error in Refusing Jury Instruction, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, January 7, 2019