Miami, Fla. (May 26, 2022) – Effective July 1, 2022, the Florida Supreme Court has amended Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.442—governing procedural requirements for service of proposals for settlement—to preclude service of a proposal containing “nonmonetary terms, with the exceptions of a voluntary dismissal of all claims with prejudice and any other nonmonetary terms permitted by statute.” The court’s amendment comes on the court’s own motion and after a lengthy comment period and oral argument. The Court’s Opinion explains that the amendments are intended to “align rule 1.442 with the substantive elements of Florida’s settlement proposal statutes,” including section 768.79, Florida Statutes.
As a result of the amendments, parties will no longer be permitted to attach releases to their proposals for settlement. Instead, parties will be confined to accepting a “voluntary dismissal” of the litigation as part of a proposal for settlement. The only exceptions are circumstances where nonmonetary terms are “permitted by statute.” Note that nothing in the Florida Supreme Court’s amendments precludes resolution of litigation through traditional means of settlement.
The purposes of Florida’s proposal for settlement laws (primarily Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.442 and section 768.79, Florida Statutes) is to encourage settlement and promote efficient resolution of litigation. Despite this, Florida’s proposal for settlement laws have become a hot bed for litigation, with an ever-evolving body of case precedent. While the Florida Supreme Court’s amendments will cut back on litigation relating to ambiguity in proposals for settlement, multiple variables must still be considered when determining whether to serve or accept a proposal for settlement, and a variety of choices must be made when drafting a proposal for settlement. These decisions affect the ability of a party to strategically engage in settlement of the case, shift the burden of attorneys’ fees to another party, and safeguard entitlement to attorneys’ fees in the event settlement results in an impasse.