After SHCP’s August 14, 2015 blog entry discussing Statutory Offers, Assembly Bill No. 1141 was signed into law by Governor Brown. AB 1141, effective January 1, 2016, amends CCP, §998 to equalize the treatment of expert witness costs awarded to a prevailing party. AB 1141 states, “This bill would clarify that this provision [CCP, §998] requires a plaintiff to cover only expert witness costs that arose postoffer.” AB 1141 will result in both parties being exposed to the same expert fee penalties for turning down a statutory offer and not doing better at trial.
Unaffected by AB 1141, CCP, §998(d) reads, “If an offer made by a plaintiff is not accepted and the defendant fails to obtain a more favorable judgment or award …, the court … may require the defendant to pay a reasonable sum to cover postoffer costs of the services of expert witnesses … in addition to plaintiff’s costs.”
To effectuate the legislature’s intent stated above, the word “postoffer” was added to CCP, §998(c)(1), which has been amended to read, “If an offer made by a defendant is not accepted and the plaintiff fails to obtain a more favorable judgment or award, … the court or arbitrator … may require the plaintiff to pay a reasonable sum to cover postoffer costs of the services of expert witnesses… .”