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Michele K. Feinzig, P.A., et al. v. Deehl & Carlson, P.A., Case Nos. 3D14-2539, 3D14-904 (3rd DCA)

InFeinzig, the Third District reversed the trial court’s order denying the plaintiffs’ entitlement to attorneys’ fees pursuant to proposals for settlement served under section 768.79 of the Florida Statutes. Following a bench trial, the trial court entered judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, such that the plaintiffs each met the mathematical threshold of section 768.79. The plaintiffs moved for an order entitling each of them to attorneys’ fees. The trial court denied the request, however, finding that the proposals for settlement were each ambiguous. The trial court found ambiguity resulting from the proposals requiring the execution of releases that specifically referenced employees and officers of the offeror as released parties, but who were not defined as offerors in the proposals themselves.

The Third District explained that “a proposal for settlement conditioned upon the execution of a standard release identifying typical affiliates of a party does not create an ambiguity rendering the proposal for settlement unenforceable.” Typical affiliates includes past, present and future affiliates, subsidiaries, parent companies and all respective officers, directors, partners, shareholders, employees, representatives, agents, successors and assigns. Therefore, the inclusion of certain non-parties in the releases did not create an inconsistency between the release and the offeror identified in the body of the proposals. As such, the Third District reversed the orders denying the plaintiffs’ entitlement to attorneys’ fees.

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