Knealing v. Puleo

675 So. 2d 593 (1996)

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Knealing v. Puleo

Florida Supreme Court
675 So. 2d 593 (1996)

Facts

Rhonda Knealing (plaintiff) and Ernest Puleo (defendant) were involved in a car accident. Knealing sued Puleo. Before trial, the court ordered Knealing and Puleo to submit to mediation. The mediation was unsuccessful and ended in an impasse 11 days before trial. After the mediation impasse, Puleo submitted an offer of judgment to Knealing, offering to settle for $15,001. Knealing rejected Puleo’s offer. The jury ruled for Knealing, and she was awarded $5,000. Puleo then submitted a motion for attorney’s fees under Florida Statutes Section 768.79, which directed courts to award attorney’s fees to defendants if (1) the plaintiff failed to accept the defendant’s offer of judgment within 30 days; and (2) the final judgment in the case was at least 25 percent less than the defendant’s offer. The trial court denied Puleo’s motion, holding that Section 768.69 was inapplicable because Puleo’s settlement offer was served less than 30 days before trial. Puleo appealed, arguing that Florida Statutes Section 44.102 tolled Section 768.79’s 30-day requirement and allowed him to submit a settlement offer at any time between the end of the court-ordered mediation and the start of trial. The appellate court certified a question to the Florida Supreme Court about whether Florida Statutes Section 44.102 represented an unconstitutional intrusion by the Florida Legislature into the Florida Supreme Court’s exclusive procedural rule-making authority.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Wells, J.)

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