Hi kids, it's a cool and clear South Florida morning so let's jump right in and see what those laughable, lovable, resplendently robed coffee-swillers are up to this week:
Central Motor v. Shaw:
The statutes and case law on offers of judgment sure are screwed up, aren't they?
Tell you what -- this opinion won't help.
Central Motor sold a car to the plaintiff, financed by Hyundai. The rates and terms of the loan were allegedly deceptive (imagine that!), so the plaintiff sued both under DUTPA. Central offered $1000 early in the case pursuant to § 768.79, which was not accepted.
Hyundai later settled for $10k, and obtained complete releases for both Hyundai and Central. The plaintiff dismissed both defendants.
Case over, right?
Not for Central -- that car dealer, represented by Bilzen attorney Allen Smith, then moves for attorney's fees against the plaintiff under the statute!
Absurd, says Judge Suarez:
Central Motor, having benefited from Hyundai Finance’s payment of $10,000.00 to settle the lawsuit, now seeks additional profit from the settlement by requesting attorney’s fees and costs. This is not the intent of the statute, and such interpretation would lead to an absurd result.Judge Suarez continues:
There is no reason to impose a sanction on Shaw for rejecting Central’s $1,000.00 offer in 2004, when Shaw achieved a much better $10,000.00 settlement with Hyundai Finance in 2006, along with the release of both defendants from the lawsuit—strictly a windfall readily accepted by Central Motor. Accordingly, we find that, based on these facts, Central Motor is not entitled to attorney’s fees and costs.Makes sense, right? I mean, even Judge Schwartz concurs.
Not so fast, according to Judge Shepherd, who dissents and thinks the used car dealer should get a free release plus fees, too:
If this were a court of equity, I might agree with the majority. However, this is a court of law, and under Section 768.79, Florida Statutes (2004), Central Motor Company is entitled to recover its reasonable attorney fees and costs pursuant to the statute.I like this part of the dissent best:
From all that appears in the record, this is a case in which Ms. Shaw’s counsel simply forgot about the existence of an ancient offer of judgment.What part of the record could possibly indicate that, and how is judicial speculation about the lawyer's motivations possibly relevant to anything?
I have nothing more to add on this one. Like I said, sometimes this blog just writes itself!