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I am suing a large corporation in small claims court for what I believe is a clear-cut case that I will win.

The amount I am claiming is only a few hundred dollars and I suspect the company will offer to pay me rather that be defeated in court (and potentially get copycat suits, or a class action suit etc)

Suppose they offer to settle and pay my claim, can I refuse? I would prefer to win in court, unless they are willing to settle for substantially more than I am claiming.

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The company can't force you to settle out of court. But if it pays you what it says you owe it in an unconditional payment, it can cause your claim to fail on the merits at trial for a lack of damages.

A company might want to do this to avoid the collateral estoppel consequences of a judicial determination of your liability. The doctrine of collateral estoppel would make judicial determinations on the merits on particular issues resolved in the case against it binding on the company in future lawsuits against other plaintiffs.

A company cannot simply pay to defeat a claim on the merits, however, in a class action suit, without paying all of the amounts owed to all members of the proposed class.

Some states also have procedural penalties such as costs or attorney fee shifting when a settlement offer is refused and the outcome at trial is not significantly better than the settlement offer, but I don't know if Florida has such a provision. If it did, your net win could easily be converted to a net loss.

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    In Germany, the judge will ask how much the plaintiff wants and how much the defendant is willing to pay, say €10,000 vs €8,000. The rule for court cost and lawyer cost is "loser pays". The difference with the €8,000 offer: The argument is now about €2,000, not €10,000 so everything is cheaper. And if the judge orders the defendant to pay €8,000 then the defendant has won the case 100% and plaintiff pays all the cost; without the offer defendant would have lost 80% of the case and would have to pay 80% of higher cost.
    – gnasher729
    Jul 10 '21 at 12:21

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