Florida Adopts A New Summary Judgment Standard: What You Need To Know
On May 1, 2021, Florida courts adopted the summary judgment standard applicable in the federal courts, joining many other states that had already transitioned to the federal rule.
In re Amendments to Fla. Rule of Civil Procedure 1.510, No. SC20-1490. The state amended Rule of Civil Procedure 1.510 to adhere to the federal summary judgment standard. But what has changed, exactly?
What is Florida’s New Summary Judgment Standard?
Here’s what has changed after Florida’s amendment of its summary judgment standard:
- Consistency with the federal rule. From May 1, 2021, Florida’s summary judgment standard will be consistent with the federal rule (Rule 56).
- The burden of production is not onerous. Under the amended summary judgment standard, the plaintiff’s (or movant’s in motion) burden of production is not onerous.
- Obtaining summary judgment without having to disprove the other party’s arguments. Under the new summary judgment rule, the movant is permitted to obtain summary judgment without having to disprove the other party’s case. The movant can present evidence to challenge the nonmoving party’s arguments or simply state that the nonmoving party does not have sufficient evidence to prove their claims.
- Reasons for granting and denying summary judgment. The new rule requires trial courts to provide reasons for granting or rejecting summary judgment. The court must provide a “conclusory statement” stating the presence or absence of material fact to grant the judgment.
- Time limits for filing/responding to motions of summary judgment. Under the amended standard, a party must file a motion for summary judgment at least 40 days before the hearing date. The response to the moving party’s motion must be submitted no less than 20 days before the hearing.
By adopting the federal summary judgment standard, the Florida Supreme Court is hoping to improve the fairness and efficiency of the state’s judicial system.
Does the Summary Judgment Standard Apply to Pending Florida Cases?
Many Floridians and their lawyers are confused about whether the new summary judgment standard applies to pending cases. While the amended rule takes effect on May 1, the standard also applies to pending cases in which:
- Summary judgment has been rejected under the pre-amendment rule. In that case, the parties should have a reasonable opportunity to submit a new summary judgment motion in accordance with the new standard.
- A summary judgment motion has been briefed but not heard. In that case, the parties should have a reasonable opportunity to change their motion in compliance with the new standard.
- Rehearing of a summary judgment motion is pending when the motion is decided under the pre-amendment rule. In that case, the court should decide the motion under the pre-amendment rule as long as a party can submit a new motion for summary judgment.
While the language of the new summary judgment standard seems unambiguous and clear, it remains unknown how lower courts would interpret the amended standard.