FMG ushers in a new era of settlement enforcement in California under Hodroj


By: Dhave Kirit Balatero and Amanda M. Figueroa

Freeman Mathis & Gary, LLP’s California partners Paul Bigley and Dhave Balatero successfully enforced a time-limited conditional policy limit settlement in phase one of a bifurcated trial based on the recent holding in CSAA Ins. Exch v. Hodroj (2022) 72 Cal. App. 5th 272, 276 (“Hodroj”). Hodroj holds that the determination of the parties’ intent to settle is determined as a matter of law from the pre-litigation communications of the parties. Pursuant to Hodroj, Mr. Bigley and Mr. Balatero secured a judgment in favor of defendants by successfully arguing that the only relevant question is: “Would a reasonable person looking at the parties’ communications think they intended to be bound by a settlement agreement? When the answer is “yes,” an inconsistency in a later writing does not constitute a rejection of the offer.”

Litigation of this case dates back to 2019 involving a heavy two vehicle accident with both vehicles being declared total losses. Plaintiff claimed a litany of injuries and underwent several surgeries with billed medicals exceeding $3M. Plaintiff’s counsel claimed a time limited conditional policy limit demand was blown resulting in an “open policy” in the wake of the carrier tendering its minimal $15,000 policy limit. Plaintiff’s counsel never demanded less than multiple millions of dollars, and actually associated in two additional heavyweight plaintiff’s firms to litigate the case against Mr. Bigley and Mr. Balatero.

The trial proceeded in a bifurcated format upon the Court’s granting of FMG’s motion to first try defendants’ “prior settlement” affirmative defense which proceeded as a pure legal issue before the trial judge only. The Court previously denied defendant’s two prior motions for summary judgment. On December 1, 2023, the Court issued the Phase One ruling in defendants’ favor and found that there was a binding and enforceable settlement agreement. Defendants timely filed a memorandum of costs as the prevailing party. Plaintiff neither appealed the Court’s ruling nor filed a motion to strike or tax costs.

Hodroj is an important case and represents an important opportunity to curb the widespread abuse and gamesmanship that persists in the conditional policy limit demand arena. Special thanks to our team: Paul Bigley, Dhave Balatero, Tim Kenna, Amanda Figueroa, Christian Foy Nagy, and Parisa Saleki.

Please reach out to Paul Bigley at or Dhave Balatero at to discuss this important verdict.