In a lawsuit following a motor vehicle collision, the injured plaintiffs were awarded compensation for their medical costs, lost wages from work, and general damages. At the time of the collision, the plaintiffs had been acting in the course of employment, and were also awarded workers’ compensation benefits. The main issue in this appeal concerned a settlement offer between the defendant and the employer’s insurance company. On appeal, the court emphasized the role of intention in a written agreement, and particularly when one party is assigning legal rights.
California Code of Civil Procedure section 998 provides an Offer to Compromise, which is often used in personal injury cases in order to reach an agreement in a dispute before trial. In this case, the defendant responsible for causing the automobile accident had appealed a trial court order enforcing a Section 998 Offer. He contended there had not been a meeting of the minds regarding agreed terms of settlement.
The facts of the underlying lawsuits indicate that plaintiffs brought separate lawsuits against defendant for their injuries, and their employer’s insurer filed a complaint in intervention, in order to recover the costs of their workers’ compensation benefits they had paid to plaintiffs. Defendant then attempted to settle the insurer’s complaint through a Section 998 Offer, which was accepted, and filed with the court. Then, defendant sent insurer an agreement with an assignment of plaintiffs’ workers’ compensation lien rights to defendant, which was a modification of the original offer. At the time, the insurer held $161,322.05 in lien rights between the two plaintiffs. Because the Section 998 Offer had not included this assignment of rights, the insurer responsed by sending its draft of the settlement agreement without the assigned rights.