Hurricane Ian Shoreline Loss: Four Policies, Oh Joy!
October 19, 2023
On December 16, 2022, Florida’s Governor signed Senate Bill 2A into law, bringing a number of changes to Florida’s insurance litigation landscape. These reforms include an amendment to the Florida law governing offers of judgment or settlement, section 768.79, Florida Statutes. Under the amended law, enumerated at section 768.79(6), “a property insurer may make a joint offer of judgment or settlement that is conditioned on the mutual acceptance of all the joint offerees” in a breach of contract action. (It is noted that section 768.79(6) applies only to breach of contract actions.).
Serving a joint offer of judgement or proposal for settlement prior to the new law presented a challenge of validity. Until now, the validity of a joint offer or proposal was assessed through the lens of a Florida Supreme Court case called Attorneys’ Title Ins. Fund, Inc. v. Gorka, 36 So. 3d 646 (Fla. 2010). The Court in Gorka held that joint offers conditioned on the mutual acceptance of all joint offerees are invalid and unenforceable. The Court determined that joint offers are conditioned such that neither offeree can independently evaluate or settle his or her respective claim by accepting the proposal.
The new amendment to section 768.79, Florida Statutes, changes this entirely. Starting December 16, 2022, a carrier can serve an offer of judgment or proposal for settlement to joint offerees. The importance of joint offers and proposals in insurance litigation stems from the fact that many insurance policies often include two named insureds, such as spouses, who own a residential property together. See Cobb v. Durando, 111 So. 3d 277 (Fla. 2d DCA 2013) (Altenbernd, J., dissenting opinion).
Joint offers of judgment from December 16, 2022, on should be made pursuant to section 768.79, Florida Statutes, and require “mutual acceptance of all the joint offerees” with a specific reference to section 768.79(6). Joint proposals for settlement should also include these references to section 768.79, generally, and section 768.79(6) specifically, in addition to referencing the Florida Rule of Civil Procedure governing proposals for settlement (Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.442).
For any further questions, please contact Shaheen Nouri.