Second District Court of Appeals Disagrees With Other Florida Appellate Court Over Treatment of Time Limit to Accept Settlement

Over the many years mandatory car insurance has existed, the state legislature has crafted several laws that guide the process of car accident litigation. One of these laws covers the length of time an at-fault party has to accept a settlement offer proposed by the injured person. Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.442(f)(1) provides that a settlement proposal is rejected if it is not accepted within 30 days after service of the proposal. In Ochoa v. Koppel (2D14-1866), the Second District Court of Appeals looked at whether another procedural rule allowed the time limit to be tolled, or suspended, while a request for an extension was made.

In this case, after an accident, the injured woman filed suit, alleging negligence and seeking compensation for her injuries. Twenty-one months after the accident, she served a proposal to dismiss the action with prejudice in exchange for a lump-sum payment of $100,000. The settlement also provided notice that the offer would be withdrawn if it were not accepted within that time. The injured woman simultaneously filed a notice that the case was ready for trial. On the day before the 30-day limit expired, the at-fault party filed a motion to extend the time in which to respond to the proposal. As an explanation, the at-fault party stated that she had only recently received an MRI report regarding the injured woman’s injuries, and the injured woman’s deposition had not been taken.

A hearing was scheduled nearly two months after the 30 days would have expired. A decision was not rendered by the trial court on that date, since the judge wanted parties to submit written support for their arguments in three days. During this time period, the at-fault party served a notice to the injured woman to accept the proposal for settlement. The court, on the day the written authorities were due, entered an order denying the request to extend the time for settlement. The injured woman filed a motion to strike the notice of acceptance, arguing that it was untimely. The at-fault party responded, arguing that the motion for extension tolled the statutory period. The trial court agreed with the injured woman and denied the at-fault party’s acceptance of the offer.

In its review, the Second District recognized that its sister appellate court in the Fifth District issued a decision that would have allowed the at-fault party to have an extension of time in a similar situation. The Second District respectfully disagreed with the court’s analysis in that case, looking at the specific language of Rule 1.090, which handles the extension of time periods. In this rule, it states that a court may, at its discretion, order a period of enlargement if the request is made before the expiration of the period. The court pointed out that nowhere in that rule does the legislature mention suspending the time period in question while a decision is made. For that reason, the appellate court upheld the lower court’s ruling against the at-fault party and her insurance company, and it affirmed the dismissal of their acceptance of the offer.

The experienced Florida car accident attorneys at Donaldson & Weston know that insurance companies want to limit the damages they pay to an injured party, and we will aggressively push back to pursue every path that’s in your best interest and aid in maximizing the damages you receive and deserve. For a free, confidential consultation, call 772-266-5555 and 561-299-3999.

More Blog Posts:

Florida District Appellate Decision Allows Woman Injured by Slip and Fall to Pursue Negligence Action Against County, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, April 19, 2016

Florida District Court of Appeal Reviews Grocery Store Slip-and-Fall Case, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, March 9, 2016