Fourth District Court determines that Proposal for Settlement not Ambiguous

In Jeffrey Jones v. Publix Supermarkets, Inc., the Plaintiff filed a proposal for settlement that provided in part that "This proposal for settlement encompasses all damages and expenses associated with this claim even those damages or expenses as to which collateral source payments have been made," and that plaintiff "will execute a full release of liability in favor of Publix Supermarkets, Inc., a Florida Corporation, and it's [sic] affiliated insurance company, and the stipulation for voluntary dismissal."  There was no further summary of the release included, nor was a copy of the proposed release attached to the proposal.

The trial court noted that "everybody understands was being released and who isn't," it ultimately concluded that it was constrained by the decision of the 4th District Court of Appeal in Papouras v. Bellsouth Telecommunications, Inc., 940 So. 2d 479 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006).  Accordingly, the trial court denied the plaintiff's motion for fees, pursuant to his proposal for settlement, because the release was neither summarized nor attached to the proposal for settlement.

The Fourth District determined that, under these particular set of facts, the proposal for settlement was not ambiguous as this was the only claim existing between the parties, and there were no other parties remaining potentially liable--so that such other claims might not be extinguished by release.

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