The Florida Supreme Court has made it clear that insurers cannot condition settlement offers on the mutual acceptance of joint insureds.
In Attorneys’ Title Insurance Fund, Inc. v. Gorka, 36 So. 3d 646 (Fla. April 1, 2010), the insurer proposed a settlement which was conditioned on the mutual acceptance of two offerees. Neither offeree accepted the proposed settlement, the case went to trial, and the insurer won. Thereafter, the insurer sought to tax both trial and appellate fees and costs to the offerees. The trial court concluded that the settlement proposal was invalid and unenforceable because neither party was able to independently evaluate or accept the offer because the mutual acceptance of both parties was required. The Second District Court of Appeal affirmed but certified conflict with a case from the First District Court of Appeal.
The Florida Supreme Court affirmed the Second District, and held that a joint offer of settlement or judgment which is conditioned on the mutual acceptance of joint offerees is invalid and unenforceable because the offerees cannot independently evaluate or settle his or her respective claim by accepting the offer of settlement. Under Florida law, a party who rejects a settlement offer is exposed to consequences if unsuccessful in litigation. Under the joint settlement offer proposed, a party’s exposure to consequences from litigation would be dependent upon the decision of the other offerees, and this contradicts Florida law.