TRIAL COURT PROPERLY DETERMINED THAT ADVANCED PAYMENT MADE BY AN INSURER SHOULD BE TREATED AS A SET-OFF FROM THE VERDICT PRIOR OF ENTRY OF FINAL JUDGMENT.
Solomon v. State Farm, 45 Fla. L Weekly D2006 (Fla. 5th DCA August 21, 2020):
Plaintiff sued his UM carrier after suffering injuries from an automobile accident. The jury returned a verdict in his favor. After computing the setoffs, the trial court entered judgment in favor of State Farm.
Plaintiff argued that the trial court erred in treating an “advance payment” made by the insurer as a set-off. Before the trial, State Farm had tendered $185,000 as an advance payment to the plaintiff, with a cover letter explaining that it was a good faith payment that would be credited against any final determination of damages. The jury returned a verdict finding the total damages were approximately $280,000.
The parties agreed to two set-offs totaling $141,000. After determining that State Farm was also entitled to a set-off for its advance payment, and recognizing that the total of the set-off combined exceeded the award by the jury, the trial court entered final judgment in favor or State Farm.
The plaintiff argued that the advance payment should not be treated like a setoff, and instead asserted it should be applied as a credit towards the satisfaction of plaintiff’s judgment.
Relying on decisions from the First DCA and the West Virginia Supreme Court, where insurers made advance payments and the courts ultimately treated them as setoffs, the Fifth District agreed with State Farm. The court noted that if it accepted the plaintiff’s argument, the plaintiff would have been able to recover costs, even if the face of a defense verdict.