In Florida, settlement of legal disputes is strongly encouraged. To encourage settlement, the Florida legislature enacted Section 768.79 of the Florida Statutes. Section 768.79 creates a substantive right to collect reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs as “penalties” when a party declines to accept a reasonable proposal to settle. Rule 1.442, Florida Rule of Civil Procedure, provides the method to enforce the proposal for settlement and sets forth the parameters for implementing Section 768.79.
Specifically, Section 768.79 allows a defendant to recover reasonable costs and attorney’s fees if the defendant proposes settlement which is not accepted within 30 days and the defendant obtains a judgment that is at least 25% less than the proposal. Likewise, a plaintiff can recover reasonable costs and attorneys’ fees if the plaintiff proposes settlement which is not accepted within 30 days and the plaintiff obtains a judgment that is more than 25% of his or her offer.