On December 31, 2020, the Florida Supreme Court amended Florida’s summary judgment rule. It finally comes into effect on May 1, 2021. The four month duration allowed for public comments and for a debate on how to adopt the federal summary judgment standard in the state’s rules of civil procedure. Parties have argued for simple incorporation of the federal Rule 56 or for a uniquely Florida rule.
On FloridaBar.org, Gary Blankenship explains that the amendment is expected to make it easier for judges to grant summary judgment motions. However, it has also been argued that this action will weaken Florida’s tradition of letting juries decide disputed issues. As mentioned, the changes will take effect in about two weeks. They will certainly impact Florida’s personal injury protection (PIP) attorneys. Many of them are Allegiant Experts clients.
The court released a decision in a related case.
As Blankenship reports, Wilsonart, LLC, et al. v. Miguel Lopez, etc., Case No. SC19-1336, addresses summary judgment procedure. “The court had requested briefing in that case on whether it should address Florida’s summary judgment standards, but ultimately decided it was best to make the change in a rules case,” he explains.
Jacksonville attorney, Bryan Gowdy, represented the respondent in the Wilsonart case. “We were pleased because the court agreed with arguments that change had to be done via the rulemaking authority and we were pleased that the court is going to give the public and the (rules) committee the opportunity to have input on the change,” he is quoted as saying.
Gowdy doesn’t see the new rule as a major change.
Blankenship notes that most lawyers might see the new amendment as a drastic overhaul. Gowdy disagrees. He believes that the new rule will clarify the confusing case law in Florida. “I’m sure there will be cases on the margin where this makes a difference,” he said, “I think it will change more about the procedure and how things have to be done.”
Committee Chair Ceci Berman, however, believes that most see the new rule as a big change. She reports receiving multiple emails from Civil Procedure Rules Committee members confirming this view.
“In its per curiam rules opinion, the court said while Rule 1.510, the Florida summary judgement rule, and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 have similar language, they differ in effect,” explains Blankenship, “It also said a supermajority of other states use the federal standard.”
Howard S. Goldfarb is a Partner with Homer Bonner Jacobs Ortiz, P.A. in Miami. On the Washington Legal Foundation website, he provides further insight into the changes brought on by the new amendment.
“From a strictly textual perspective, the amendment’s changes appear minor,” writes Goldfarb, “The amendment alters only a single word from prior Rule 1.510(c), substituting in the word ‘dispute’ for the word ‘issue,’ and now provides that ‘[t]he judgment sought must be rendered immediately if the pleadings and summary judgment evidence on file show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.’”
Are you a PIP attorney who may be affected by this new amendment?
Just how much will it impact you? Please don’t hesitate to contact the clinical experts at Allegiant Experts with any of your questions. Call us at 407-217-5831 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.