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Dept. of Hwy. Safety and Motor Vehicles v. Weinstein Case Brief

Summary of Dept. of Hwy. Safety and Motor Vehicles v. Weinstein, 3rd DCA of FL (1999)

Cause of action: The following is a cause of action for attorney’s fees.

Procedural History: Trial court denied attorney’s fees to DF, saying the offer was not made in good faith according to the statute.  This court reverses and remands.

Facts: FHP applied for attorney’s fees under FL statute b/c the offer on its part was made in good faith.

Issue(s): Under FRCP, is a $1000 nominal damage offer allowable to receive attorney’s fees when the DF was the offeror at trial?

Court’s Rationale/Reasoning: Although the offer was essentially nominal, the record demonstrates conclusively that, at the time it was made with reasonable belief they were nominally exposed.  Also, the fact the officer was not guilty of what he was originally charged with in the original cause of action should have sent a warning flag to PL/appellee not to sue, or if he did, there would likely be nominal nuisance-type damages.  Thus, there was a reasonable foundation and a reasonable explanation for offering what they did at trial.

Rule: Good faith is determined by the subjective motivations and beliefs of the pertinent actor.  SO long as the offeror has a basis in known or reasonably believed fact to conclude that the offer is justifiable, the “good faith” requirement has been satisfied.

Holding: Yes.  Provided the offer was made in good faith, the shifting of fees from appellant to appellee is reasonable under the statute, but here the amount awarded should be lower considering the plight of PL/appellee.



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