This tool is only available to the defense, and it compels careful consideration by the plaintiff of the offer extended. Through an offer of judgment, a defendant extends a dollar value offer to the plaintiff through the court. These offers have real teeth and should never be ignored. The plaintiff is allowed ten days to accept the stated offer. If the plaintiff fails to respond within ten days or provides an earlier written rejection, this rejection date begins a time clock during which the plaintiff may be held responsible for the defendant’s costs incurred defending the lawsuit.
Simply put, the offer of judgment becomes a goal and barrier that must be exceeded by the plaintiff at trial. If the jury verdict does not exceed the offer amount, the defense shall be allowed to collect from the plaintiff, directly or by reduction of the verdict, all costs associated with defending the lawsuit. Typical costs include expert witness fees, court reporter and transcription costs, and expense incurred to preserve evidence and prepare trial exhibits. The defense attorney’s legal fees are not included.
Following mediation, defendants will often file an offer of judgment reflecting the last offer rejected at mediation. Thereafter, they can force independent medical examinations, hire medical experts, and extend financial resources to build their defense strategy and evidence. If they are able to hold the plaintiff’s verdict down such that it does not exceed the offer of judgment, all of these defense costs will be paid for by the victim. Regretfully, the plaintiff/victim in North Carolina does not have access to this litigation tool or similar legal leverage.