Fourth DCA finds that a release attached to proposal for settlement did not make the offer ambiguous.
In Branford, the Court upheld a grant of attorney’s fees and costs to American Integrity. American Integrity served a $1,000 proposal for settlement (“PFS”) with an attached release. It released all “assigns” from the claim. Branford argued the release was ambiguous, as there as a known assignment of benefits, and Branford could not have released the assignee from its rights to the claim. The appellate court disagreed and found that it did not create an ambiguity, as Branford could only release those claims which she asserted or could assert in the underlying lawsuit—Branford had no right/standing to enforce an interest she transferred to an assignee.
Importantly, the upheld release also contained the following relevant language:
“including without limitation, any claims or causes of action in any way pertaining to the claim for insurance benefits alleged by the Plaintiff in the Litigation, including but not limited to all claims of property damage arising from a water loss and ensuing damages claim on or about August 19, 2014, compensatory damages, causes of action, attorneys’ fees, interest and costs, liabilities, and judgments (including, but not limited to, all claims in equity, under local, federal, or state tort, contract, extra-contractual, “bad faith” or statutory law).”
The takeaway: Attaching a release to a PFS does not make it de facto ambiguous. Also, releasing a “bad-faith” claim did not create an ambiguity.