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Florida Settlement Statutes are Strictly Construed – Design Home Remodeling Corp. v. Santana

walkingEvery year, a number of people in Florida get into various types of accidents and suffer personal injuries. Under state law, an injured party may seek compensation for his or her injuries from the at-fault party by filing a personal injury lawsuit. Personal injury claims are rooted in the legal principle of negligence, which denotes the failure to take proper care when doing something, which leads to foreseeable harm. Put another way, negligence law is designed to hold people responsible for their careless or reckless actions that cause injury to another.

While some cases go to trial, most cases settle out of court. Laws surrounding settlements, however, can be complex and nuanced, which is why it is always important to consult a qualified attorney who can help you understand and comply with all the procedural requirements that may come into play.

In Design Home Remodeling Corp. v. Santana, an individual was injured in a slip and fall accident while on premises owned by a condominium association. Some time later, the man and his spouse filed a lawsuit against the association, alleging negligent maintenance of the premises. The association answered by saying that another company was accountable for any negligent maintenance. As a result, the plaintiffs amended their original complaint to add the other company as a defendant, claiming that the company did not adequately warn the individual of a slippery liquid on the ground, which ultimately led to his fall.

Sixty days after the amended complaint was filed, the new defendant company served the couple with a proposed settlement under clause 768.79 of the Florida Statutes. The plaintiff failed to respond. Eventually, the trial court entered summary judgment in favor of the new defendant company.

After the motion for summary judgment was granted, the new defendant company requested that the court award the company’s attorney’s fees and costs. The court denied this request based on a relevant Florida law that states that a defendant may not make a settlement offer to a plaintiff unless 90 days have gone by since the lawsuit was initiated. The new defendant company appealed.

The appellate court explained that proposals for settlements are in derogation of the common law principle that each party must pay for its own attorney’s fees. As such, the rules surrounding this issue must be strictly construed. It held that a proposal for settlement served 60 days after a party joined is invalid and cannot form the basis for an award of attorney’s fees. Thus, failure to comply with settlement time frames is not just a “technical violation” that could be easily overlooked.

If you or someone you know has been hurt in a personal injury accident, seeking the help of a qualified and knowledgeable Miami premises liability lawyer can make all the difference in your case. Robert Dixon has helped countless clients pursue their personal injury claims and settle their cases outside the courtroom. We understand that this is a stressful time for you and your family, which is why we aim to make the process as seamless as possible. We proudly represent clients throughout South Florida. To learn more, contact us online or call us today at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) for a free, confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

The Concept of “Proximate Cause” in Florida Personal Injury Claims, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, October 31, 2014

The Role of “Med Pay” in Florida Slip and Fall Accidents, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, October 21, 2014

Dealing with Tire Blowout Accidents in Florida, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, October 21, 2014