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Florida Third DCA rules that plaintiff's proposal for settlement to defendant was not invalidated by reference to resolution of attorney's fee claims not sought in complaint

On February 21, 2018, in Castillo v. Costco Wholesale Corp., No. 3D16-2185, the Florida Third DCA reversed a trial court’s denial of a prevailing plaintiff’s motion for fees and costs based on the defendant’s failure to accept a proposal for settlement made pursuant to Section 768.79. Florida Statutes. The trial court had denied the motion as fatally ambiguous because the proposal purported to settle all claims, “inclusive of any and all attorney fees and costs incurred as of the date of the acceptance of this offer,” further stating “attorney fees are part of the legal claims,” but the complaint itself did not pray for an award of attorney fees. The Third DCA noted that although Fla. R. Civ, P, 1.442(c)(2)(F) requires a proposal to specify whether the proposal includes attorneys’ fees and whether attorneys’ fees are part of the legal claim, this requirement is not included in Section 768.79. Moreover, the Florida Supreme Court has ruled that it will not invalidate a proposal for settlement for violating this requirement where it is totally irrelevant to the settlement of a case in which attorney’s fees are not sought. Kuhajda v. Borden Dairy Co. of Alabama, LLC, 202 So. 3d 391 (Fla. 2016). Following Kuhajida, the Third DCA reversed and remanded with instructions to the trial court to grant the motion.