Proposal for Settlement Taxable Costs CalculationPersonal Injury
In the case of Estate of Sweeney v. Gloria Washington, Case Numbers 2D20-1848 and 2D20-2520 (Fla. 2d DCA September 3, 2021), Florida’s Second DCA held that calculations for the “net judgment” on a proposal for settlement only includes costs that would have been taxable at the time of the proposal.
Facts of the Case
The Estate of Sweeney and State Farm appealed a final judgment for attorney’s fee and costs in favor of the plaintiff because such judgment included prepaid expert deposition fees paid to the plaintiff’s experts. State Farm argued that this was a miscalculation under section 768.79, Fla. Stat. because preoffer costs were not taxable at the time the plaintiff’s proposal for settlement was served.
The Second DCA agreed and reversed.
Deposition fees to two experts were paid before the plaintiff’s proposal for settlement was served but such depositions did not occur until after the proposal expired. If these two deposition fees are included in the calculations for a net judgment, then the plaintiff would be obtaining an award that is 125% of her her proposal for settlement. On the other hand, if these two deposition fees are not included, then the plaintiff will be below the 125% threshold to enforce the proposal for settlement.
Section 768.79(6)(b), Fla. Stat. provides that a plaintiff is entitle to recover “postoffer attorney fees and costs” in the event of a net judgment of 125% of the proposal.
State Farm and the estate contended that there is a distinction between costs that are taxable for purposes of triggering the sanction on the proposal versus which costs are taxable overall as a prevailing party. As such, the key case to consider is White v. Steak & Ale of Florida., Inc., 816 So. 2d 546 (Fla. 2002). In White, the Florida Supreme Court held that the “net judgment” for purposes of the proposal for settlement only includes taxable costs up until the date of the offer/proposal.
Thus, even though these two expert deposition fees are taxable at the end of the case because the plaintiff prevailed, they are not included in the calculation of a “net judgment” for purposes of imposing a sanction on the proposal for settlement.
The plaintiff in this case still had a successful day in court even without the added sanction on the defense for the proposal for settlement.
Talk to a Lakeland Personal Injury Attorney
This case is another example of convoluted and complicated the analysis can be with proposals for settlement. Proposals for settlement in personal injury cases should not be taken for granted because no one can predict precisely where the numbers may fall at trial. You only get one shot at justice in the legal system. If you have a personal injury or car accident case, you should call Russo Law to get a free consultation and opinion regarding your case. Schedule your free injury case consultation today.