Florida Court Discusses Grounds for Vacating a Settlement Agreement

While most people file personal injury lawsuits with the goal of presenting their case to a jury, few cases actually proceed to trial. Rather, most cases resolve prior to that time via the submission and acceptance of a proposal for settlement (PFS). While a PFS is a contractual agreement that is binding on the parties, there are exceptions that would allow a proposal to be voided, as demonstrated in a recent Florida car accident case. If you were hurt in a collision, it is in your best interest to meet with a seasoned Florida personal injury attorney to assess what compensation you may be able to recover for your harm.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff was involved in a collision with the defendant, after which he sued the defendant for negligence and his insurance carrier for breach of contract. In an effort to resolve the claims, the plaintiff’s attorney directed his paralegal to send PFS to the plaintiff’s insurer and the defendant, requesting each party’s insurance policy limits. The paralegal erroneously sent a PFS to the defendant’s counsel requesting $10,000 rather than $100,000 to settle the claims. Defendant accepted immediately, after which the plaintiff realized the error and filed a motion to withdraw the proposal. The court denied the motion, finding that the PFS was unequivocal and clear on its face and pursuant to Florida’s PFS law must be enforced. The plaintiff filed a motion for rehearing, arguing he did not consent to the settlement. The court denied the motion, and the plaintiff then appealed the rulings of the trial court.

Florida’s Laws Regarding Settlements

While the plain meaning of Florida’s PFS law and the rules of the procedure both require strict compliance, both the law and the rule interpreting the law only apply when there has been a rejection of a PFS, and the case proceeds to trial and ultimately results in a judgment. Thus, the appellate court found that the trial court erred in stating that because the PFS was clear on its face, it could not be retracted.

Further, the appellate court noted that under Florida law, a contract can be vacated on the basis of a unilateral mistake, unless the mistake was the result of an inexcusable failure to exercise due care, or the other party has changed its position in reliance on the contract so that rescission would be unconscionable. In the subject case, while the appellate court found that there was some negligence involved in the erroneous submission of the PFS, it was the result of a miscommunication between the plaintiff’s attorney and his paralegal and did not constitute egregious neglect that could not be excused. As such, the appellate court found that the trial court erred in denying the plaintiff’s motion.

Speak to an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney in Florida

Car accidents are common in Florida, and many lawsuits arising out of collisions settle long before the case reaches the trial stage. If you were injured in a crash, the experienced Florida personal injury attorneys of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. can aid you in pursuing the full amount of damages recoverable under the law, and we will advocate aggressively on your behalf.  You can reach us through our online form or at 800-283-7442 to schedule a meeting.

Contact Information