Horvitz & Levy obtained the affirmance of a trial court order shifting defendant Toyota’s postoffer costs to the plaintiff. The appellate decision upholds the validity of a Code of Civil Procedure section 998 offer that included general release language.
In this Song-Beverly (lemon law) action, Toyota offered to settle the case and served a section 998 offer before trial that required plaintiff to sign a general release, but did not attach the release to the offer. After the plaintiff failed to recover more from the jury than Toyota’s section 998 offer, he argued the offer was invalid because it included a vague general release that was not attached to the offer itself.
Horvitz & Levy persuaded the Court of Appeal to affirm the trial court’s order awarding Toyota its postoffer costs and denying plaintiff’s recovery of postoffer attorney’s fees. The court held that Toyota’s section 998 offer was valid because the offer’s preamble made it clear and unambiguous that the release was limited to the claims asserted in the lawsuit. The court further held that in the absence of any authority mandating that a release itself be presented with the offer, it is unnecessary to do so where the offer appropriately limits the breadth of the release.