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DFC Tamarac, Inc. v. Fatou N. Jackson, Case No. 4D12-3065 (4th DCA)

In Jackson, the Fourth DCA reversed the trial court's denial of attorney's fees and costs pursuant to Fla. Stat. 768.79, finding that the proposal for settlement was not ambiguous in the identification of the offeree. The complaint described a single plaintiff, a minor by and through her mother and guardian. The mother did not make any separate requests for relief in the complaint, which confirmed she merely appeared as guardian for the minor, not as a separate plaintiff. While the case was pending, the defendant served a proposal for settlement on the plaintiff pursuant to Fla. Stat. 768.79 and Rule 1.442. The proposal tracked the same language used by the plaintiff in the complaint, and stated that the offer was being made to the plaintiff, a minor by and through her mother and guardian. After trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant. The trial court found the proposal to be ambiguous and denied the motion for fees.

The Fourth DCA noted that the record made clear that the trial court denied the defendants' motion for fees because of an alleged ambiguity as to whether the minor or the mother was the offeree, and for failure to apportion the amount of the settlement between them. The Fourth DCA found that the trial court believed there were two plaintiffs. The Fourth DCA found, however, that it was clear from the complaint that there was only a single plaintiff. As such, the proposal for settlement was not ambiguous in its offer of settlement to the plaintiff.

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