There are several odd things about Trujillo v. City of Los Angeles (D2d1 Oct. 27, 2022 No. B314042) -- Cal.Rptr.3d -- (2022 WL 15119812), a case about accepting a Code of Civil Procedure section 998 offer of compromise. The court held the acceptance was not valid because, even though it was within the statutory 30 days, the acceptance came after the trial court had already granted summary judgment.
The set-up is pretty simple: The City was defending against a claim that it negligently maintained a cracked sidewalk that caused Trujillo to trip during a late-night jog. The City filed a motion for summary judgment. Then just a few days before the hearing, the City served a section 998 offer.
At the hearing, the trial court orally granted the City’s motion for summary judgment. Four minutes later, Trujillo accepted the 998 offer, and then immediately filed the executed 998 offer.
The trial court rejected the 998 acceptance. And so did the Court of Appeal. The court held that “a still-pending 998 offer expires when a trial court orally grants summary judgment.”
I count several odd things:
1. You are supposed to get 30 days to accept a 998, but here, the court only would have given the plaintiff “a few days.”
2. The court reasoned that a 998 offer only stay in effect so long as there remains a “dispute to be resolved,” but that is not actually what the statute says.
3. What about tentative rulings? The opinion suggests a litigant may still accept a 998 offer after a tentative so long as it’s before the oral ruling.
4. Why didn’t the court accept the argument that an MSJ hearing is akin to the “commencement of trial,” and thus the 998 offer filed less than 10 days before that time was never valid in the first place?