Martinez v. Brownco Constr. Co.Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs, Raymond and Gloria Martinez, sued Defendant for damages arising out of an electrical explosion that severely injured Raymond. Before trial, Plaintiffs served on Defendant two successive settlement offers pursuant to Cal. Civ. Proc. Code 998. Defendant failed to accept or reject the offers within the statutory thirty-day period. After a trial, judgments were entered in favor of Plaintiffs that were not more favorable to Defendant than either offer. Plaintiffs sought costs pursuant to section 998, including expert fees. Section 998 encourages the settlement of lawsuits prior to rial by providing that a defendant cover the plaintiff's postoffer costs of expert witness services when the judgment is not more favorable than the plaintiff's settlement offer. However, the statute is silent as to the effect of a party's multiple offers. The trial court disallowed the expert fees incurred by Gloria after her first settlement offer but before her second offer, finding that the most recently rejected offer is the only pertinent offer. The court of appeal reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the circumstances presented here, allowing the recovery of expert fees incurred from the date of the first offer is consistent with section 998's language and purpose.