Tuesday, September 13, 2016

This Release Does Not Compute

Ignacio v. Caracciolo, No. B266930 (D2d8 Aug. 3, 2016)
 

This is another case where an insurance company gets over its skis by making a Code of Civil Procedure § 998 offer of judgment that tries to do more than just enter judgment in the case along the terms of the offer. This time, the offer includes an agreement to a broad general release, including a waiver of unknown claims under Civil Code § 1542. Plaintiff didn’t take the deal. At trial, Insurer won a verdict below the offer’s cash consideration, so it sought cost shifting. On appeal, the Court of Appeal finds the offer invalid. Problem is, when a release is broader than the claims in the case, the value of the offer vs. what was won at trail can’t really be rationally compared. Suppose, for instance, that plaintiff had some multi-million dollar claim against the insurer on some other issue that wasn’t in the case. Since the release offered was far broader than the case with respect to the releasing parties, the released parties, and the claims being released, it couldn’t be fairly valued under the § 998 calculus.

Affirmed.

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