Offers of Judgment Applicable to Defendants but Not Parties

Submitted by NJ motor vehicle accident lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

In Hennessey v. Newby, decided October 20, 2015 by the Appellate Division, a motorcycle (driven by Newby) hit Hennessey’s car. Hennessey then put GEICO on notice of an underinsured motorist claim and GEICO intervened. Hennessey filed an offer to take judgment against Newby for $39,000 without prejudice—in other words Hennessey would only have been awarded $39,000. Neither Newby nor GEICO accepted the offer and the case went to trial. The jury awarded Hennessey $200,000 which was reduced to $140,000 due to contributory negligence. This means that even though the majority of the “fault” was found to be Newby’s some was also found to be on the shoulders of Hennessey.

Hennessey then moved for lawyer fees and interest under Rule 4:58-2(a) which allows for prejudgment of 8% on any recovery from the date an officer was made if the amount awarded is 120% of the original offer or more. Additionally attorney’s fees are allowed. The question of this case was simple; did this apply to GEICO? The answer is no. This is because GEICO intervened but was not named as a defendant and therefore the offer of judgment was not filed against GEICO and therefore GEICO could not be held financially accountable for not accepting it.

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