In Mostafavi Law Group, APC v. Larry Rabineau, APC (B302344, Mar. 3, 2021), the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District (Los Angeles), addressed an issue of first impression: whether the purported acceptance of a Code of Civil Procedure section 998 (“section 998”) offer lacking an acceptance provision gives rise to a valid judgment. The appellate court held that a section 998 offer to compromise (“998 Offer”) without an acceptance provision is invalid and any judgment stemming from it is void.
In Mostafavi Law Group, plaintiffs sued defendants for defamation per se, among other claims, which was litigated at-length over several years. Defendants served plaintiffs with a written 998 Offer, offering to settle the action for the sum of $25,000.01. The 998 Offer did not specify the manner in which plaintiffs were to accept the offer.
Within the statutory time period for acceptance, plaintiffs’ counsel hand-wrote the following onto the 998 Offer: “Plaintiff Mostafavi Law Group, APC accepts the offer.” That day, plaintiffs also filed a notice of acceptance of the 998 Offer, along with proof thereof, and sent a copy to defendants. The next day, having received the notice of acceptance, defendants advised plaintiffs that they would “draft and send . . . a settlement agreement for . . . signature” before paying the settlement funds.