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Glenn Miley v. Martha Nash, Case No. 2D14-930 (2nd DCA)

In Miley, the Second District found that a proposal for settlement was properly drafted, and thus, reversed the trial court's denial of a motion for entitlement to attorneys' fees and costs. The case arose from an automobile accident, in which a vehicle driven by Kyle Miley and owned by Glenn Miley collided into a vehicle driven by Martha Nash. Martha Nash later filed suit against the Mileys seeking bodily injury damages, and her husband Garfield made a claim for loss of consortium. Before trial, one of the defendants, Kyle Miley, served a proposal for settlement offering to pay $59,590 in "an attempt to resolve all claims and causes of action resulting from the incident or accident giving rise to this lawsuit brought by plaintiff Martha Nash against Defendant Kyle Miley." The proposal required Martha Nash to dismiss both Glenn and Kyle Miley from the lawsuit. After trial, Martha Nash was awarded $17,955. The defendant, Kyle Miley moved for attorneys' fees pursuant to her proposal of settlement. The trial court denied the motion, finding several deficiencies. The Second District disagreed with each.

First, the Second District found that the proposal sufficiently identified the claims to be resolved. The language of the proposal clearly stated that it was targeted to address any and "all claims and causes of action resulting from the incident or accident giving rise to the lawsuit brought by Plaintiff Martha Nash against Defendant Kyle Miley." The proposal was, therefore, meant to resolve the bodily injury claims brought by Martha Nash, and not the consortium claim brought by Garfield Nash. The Second District noted that such general statements regarding the claims to be resolved are sufficient under the rule. It is unnecessary to specifically identify the various elements of damages if the proposal indicates that it is meant to resolve all claims identified in the complaint. The Second District found that the proposal's language did not contain an ambiguity that would render Martha Nash unable to make an informed decision without needing clarification.

The Second District next found that the proposal did not need to address Garfield Nash's consortium claim. The rules do not require a proposal to address every claim, but rather on those that the proposal attempts to resolve. The Second District noted that Garfield's consortium claim was separate from Martha's bodily injury claim, even though it was derivative, and the proposal required no action or input on the part of Garfield. The proposal was not deficient for failing to address Garfield's claim, because it explicitly said that it was meant to cover all claims brought by Martha.

Third, the Second District found that the proposal met the particularity requirements under the statute and the rule. The relevant conditions of the proposal were included and sufficiently described: the exact amount Kyle Miley would pay; the exact claims the proposal would resolve; the action to be taken by Martha Nash, namely dismissal, that each party will bear its own fees and costs, and that Glenn Miley would also be dismissed.

The Second District also found that the trial court erred in characterizing the proposal as a joint proposal. Joint proposals must state the amount and terms attributable to each party. The Second District, however, found that the proposal plainly stated that it was being made solely by Kyle Miley to Martha Nash. Requiring Martha Nash to release both Kyle and Glenn Miley did not render the proposal a joint one, and it did not invalidate the offer in any other way.

The Second District therefore reversed.

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