Error To Deny Defendant’s Motion For Attorney’s Fees Where A Proposal Was Properly Served And Amount Awarded Sufficient To Trigger Fees–argument That Proposal Was Invalid Because It Was A Statutorily Ambiguous Joint Offer That Failed To Apportion Damages Among The Plaintiffs Fails Where Cases Were Consolidated For The Specific Purposes Of Discovery And Trial–plaintiffs’ Claims Did Not Merge Under Consolidation Orders, Because Cases Do Not Lose Their Individual Identities When Being Consolidated.
Weiner v. Maulden, 44 Fla. L. Weekly D953 (Fla. 4th DCA April 10, 2019):
The plaintiffs’ claims were consolidated for discovery and trial. Defendant served separate proposals for settlement to the two plaintiffs and after the first plaintiff’s case went to trial, she did not beat the proposal.
When the defendant moved for fees, plaintiff claimed that the proposal was invalid because it failed to apportion the total amount between her and the other plaintiff, thus leaving her reasonably uncertain as to whether her acceptance would extinguish the co-plaintiff’s claim in light of the consolidation.
The Fourth District rejected that argument. It found that plaintiff’s claims did not merge with the co-plaintiff’s claims under the consolidation orders, because even though cases are consolidated for discovery and trial they do not lose their individual identities. Also, the proposal explicitly stated that acceptance would resolve all damages in the action and referred only to the parties identified in the proposal. There was no mention of any other pending claims or parties that would be affected by the acceptance.
The court reversed the trial court’s order denying the defendant’s entitlement to attorney’s fees.