Insurer obligated to pay attorney fees pursuant to Florida’s Offer of Judgment Statute, where the policy provides for all court costs charged, to an insured, in a covered lawsuit.

In Geico Gen. Ins. Co. v. Hollingsworth, 2015 Fla. App. LEXIS 1187, Geico General Insurance Company appeals a final judgment ordering it to pay certain attorney’s fees for which its insured, Mohamed Kassam, was primarily liable. This case originally stems from an automobile accident involving the appellees, Kassam and Kevin Hollingsworth. Kassam was insured by Geico under an automobile insurance policy.

At some point during the litigation, Hollingsworth served a proposal for settlement upon Kassam, proposing to settle the case for $9,999.99. Kassam rejected the proposal. After a jury trial, the trial court entered judgment for Hollingsworth in the amount of $16,603.24. Because the judgment exceeded the amount of the proposal for settlement by more than twenty-five percent, Hollingsworth moved for attorney’s fees under Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.442 and section 768.79, Florida Statutes (“the Offer of Judgment Statute”). The court granted Hollingsworth’s request, and entered an attorney fee judgment against Kassam in the amount of $113,175.00.

Hollingsworth then moved to add Geico as a party defendant to the attorney fee judgment and eventually obtained a writ of garnishment against Geico. The trial court found that Geico was liable for the attorney’s fees under the “Additional Payments” section of the Policy. That section provides, in pertinent part: ADDITIONAL PAYMENTS WE WILL MAKE UNDER THE LIABILITY COVERAGES include all court costs charged to an insured in a covered lawsuit.

Geico appealed to the Fifth District Court of Appeal of Florida. The District Court found that that the attorney fee judgment was explicitly covered by the Policy. When interpreting an insurance policy, courts are bound by the plain meaning of the policy’s text. When language in a policy is ambiguous, courts must resolve the ambiguity in favor of the insured by “adopting the reasonable interpretation of the policy’s language that provides coverage.” The Court stated Geico could have provided a definition of “court costs” that explicitly excluded attorney’s fees sought under the Offer of Judgment Statute.