CSK Obtains Reversal on Trial Order, Permitting Defendant's Motion for Entitlement to Attorney's Fees

Kristen Tajak of Cole, Scott & Kissane’s Appellate Group successfully obtained a reversal of the trial court’s order denying the Defendant’s motion for entitlement to attorney’s fees pursuant to a proposal for settlement in the matter of RTG Furnitre v. Franklin Coates and Lorie Coates.

On the 45th day before the trial start date, the Defendant served a proposal for settlement on the appellees, which they did not accept. Following a successful trial result in favor of the Defendant, and the trial court entered final judgment for the Defendant. The Defendant then filed a motion for entitlement to attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to the proposal for settlement that was never accepted.

The trial court denied the Defendant’s motion for entitlement to attorney’s fees, concluding that the 45th day before trial was one day short of being timely under rule 1.442 of the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure. Therefore, the trial court decided that the Defendant was not entitled to recover its attorney’s fees, although costs were awarded.

On appeal of the trial court’s denial of the Defendant’s motion for attorney’s fees, the Fourth District Court of Appeal held, in a 7-page opinion, that the plain and ordinary meaning of rule 1.442 is that the deadline for serving a proposal for settlement is the 45th day before the date set for trial; in other words, the 45 days includes the date of service of the proposal for settlement, but does not include the trial date. Because the Defendant’s proposal for settlement was served on the 45th day before the date set for trial, the proposal was timely under rule 1.442, and the Fourth District held that it was reversible error for the trial court to conclude otherwise. This is a significant ruling concerning the application and interpretation of rule 1.442 in that there are no other appellate court decisions addressing this issue.

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