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Florida Fourth DCA affirms trial court's enforcement of settlement agreement between parties, concludes that disputed language of release did not prevent meeting of the minds

On February 28, 2018, in Tovar v. Russell, No. 4D17-1055, the Florida Fourth DCA affirmed a trial court order enforcing a settlement agreement between the parties in a motor vehicle negligence case over the objection of the plaintiff, who argued that there was no meeting of the minds because the plaintiff had rejected the defendant’s initial proposed release. The Fourth DCA rejected the plaintiff’s argument, noting that the agreement had been reached before the issue of the release arose and the defendant’s insurance company specifically indicated that the release was not a condition of the settlement. The Fourth DCA distinguished this situation from other cases in which courts refused to enforce settlement agreements where the language of releases and other conditions required by insurance companies varied from the original offer preventing the requisite meeting of the minds. See, e.g., Grant v. Lyons, 17 So. 3d 708, 709 (Fla. 4th DCA 2009) (requiring all settlement documents executed and all liens satisfied prior to disbursement of proceeds, and requiring the plaintiff to warrant that all hospital bills were fully paid); Cheverie v. Geisser, 783 So. 2d 1115, 1118 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001) (reversing where an insurance company sent a letter with a check for the policy limits, but did not respond to objections concerning indemnification); Trout v. Apicella, 78 So. 3d 681, 683 (Fla. 5th DCA 2012) (holding an insurer did not accept where the offer demanded a single bodily injury release without indemnification language, and the insurer responded with a release titled “release of all claims”); Peraza v. Robles, 983 So. 2d 1189, 1190 (Fla. 3d DCA 2008) (requiring the check to be held in escrow until the insurance company received an “unaltered release executed . . . along with a copy of the U/M Carrier Authorization of Settlement and Waiver of Subrogation Rights”).

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