Martinez v. Brownco Constr. Co., 56 Cal. 4th 1014 (2013)

In this personal injury case, Raymond and Gloria Martinez sued Brownco Construction Co. for damages arising out of an electrical explosion that severely injured Mr. Martinez. In August 2007, pursuant to Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 998, Mr. Martinez offered to compromise his negligence claim for $4.75 million, and Mrs. Martinez offered to compromise her loss of consortium claim for $250,000. Brownco ignored the Martinezes' offer of compromise. Just before trial in February 2010, Mr. Martinez and Mrs. Martinez served reduced compromise offers of $1.5 million and $100,000 respectively; Brownco again ignored the offers. At trial, Mr. Martinez obtained a judgment in the amount of $1,646,674, and Mrs. Martinez obtained a $250,000 judgment. The Martinezes filed a memorandum of costs seeking a total of $561,257, including $188,536.88 in expert fees incurred after the first offer but before the second offer. Brownco opposed the request for expert fees on the ground that the second offer extinguished the first and that costs incurred before the second offer was made could not be recovered under section 998. The Supreme Court disagreed and determined that "[w]here, as here, a plaintiff serves two statutory offers to compromise, and the defendant fails to obtain a judgment more favorable than either offer, recoverability of expert fees incurred from the date of the first offer is consistent with section 998's language and best promotes the statutory purpose to encourage the settlement of lawsuits before trial."