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CALIFORNIA: Offer to Compromise Joint Claims, May Be Made to Either Spouse

Offer to Compromise Joint Claims

In California, an offer by a Defendant to settle joint claims of a Husband and Wife (under California Code of Civil Procedure 998) may be made to either of them even if the claims are not identical.

This is because recovery from claims of spouses is a community asset (under Family Code Section 760) and either of the spouses have absolute power to  accept or reject such an offer (under Family Code Section 1100(a).

Of course, the non-accepting spouse may have a claim for breach of fiduciary duty against the accepting spouse, for improper compromise of community’s claim (under Family  Code Section 1100 (e)).

In the Case of  Barnett et Al., V. First National Insurance Company of America (2010) 184 Cal. App. 4th 1454, filed May 26, 2010, the Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate District, Division Seven (Los Angels) reversed a prior decision by the same Court (Weinberg v. Safeco Ins. Co. of America (2004) 114 Cal.App.4th 1075), which required separate offer to each spouse. The Court admitted that in reaching the prior decision, it did not consider the effects of the California community property law on the joint offers.

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