Ezequiel Lugo obtained a favorable decision in an appeal from an order awarding attorneys’ fees based on a proposal for settlement.
The plaintiffs, husband and wife, sued two defendants for injuries related to an automobile accident in Pasco County. One defendant served two separate proposals for settlement to both plaintiffs. The proposal identified the single defendant as the party making the proposal, and included a term requiring that the claims against the two defendants be dismissed with prejudice. The proposals also included a term stating that “acceptance of this proposal shall not affect the claims made against any remaining defendants.”
After a jury trial, the trial court entered a judgment for the husband in an amount that was at least twenty-five percent less than the amount of the proposal. The trial court also entered a judgment for the defendants on the wife’s claims. Troy McRitchie, who represented the defendants, then moved for an award of attorneys’ fees based on the two proposals for settlement.
The plaintiffs conceded, in open court, that the defense was entitled to attorneys’ fees based on the proposals for settlement. But, several months later, the plaintiffs claimed that the phrase “any remaining defendants” rendered the proposals ambiguous. The trial court ruled that the proposals were not ambiguous, and entered an award of attorneys’ fees against the plaintiffs.
On appeal, the plaintiffs argued the proposals for settlement were ambiguous. Ezequiel argued that the proposals for settlement were clear that the plaintiffs were required to dismiss both defendants and there would be no “remaining defendants.” Ezequiel also argued that the fee award should be affirmed on the alternative basis that the plaintiff’s concession in open court was binding.
The Second District Court of Appeals rejected the plaintiffs’ arguments, and affirmed without a written opinion. The appellate court also entered an order awarding appellate attorneys’ fees to the defense.