Florida Adopts Federal Summary Judgement Rule

A summary judgment is a judgment made in court for or against a party without a full trial or jury; either the defendant or the plaintiff can make a pre-trial motion for a summary judgment. Summary judgment is granted when the judge believes they have all of the facts and information and there are no other facts to be tried, meaning that it is not necessary to go to trial. There are many benefits of a summary judgment including reduced costs and avoiding a lengthy trial.

Florida Rule 1.510 vs. Federal Rule 56

Until very recently, Florida required a summary judgment rule when a party shows that there is “no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.510(c). The federal rule is remarkably similar and states that “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).

The main difference between the previous Florida Rule 1.510 and Federal Rule 56 was in the application. For example, Florida courts were much more lenient with the phrase “no genuine issue as to any material fact.” Florida courts previously recognized a large amount of evidence in summary judgements that was not credible or admissible in court. By contrast, federal courts require evidence to be credible and reasonable enough that a jury could use it in court.

Florida Rule 1.510 Amended

On May 1, 2021, an amendment of Florida Rule 1.510 became effective and Florida courts adopted the exact wording of Federal Rule 56. There are many noteworthy changes that will be occurring in Florida courts because of the adoption of this new rule. For instance, the movant is no longer required to disprove the non-movant’s theory of the case. In addition, both parties must ensure that “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986). In addition, with Florida Rule 1.510, any party was permitted to file a motion for summary judgement any time until 30 days after discovery ended. However, now movants are required to motion for a summary judgement at least 40 days before the hearing and non-movants are required to provide their responses at least 20 days before the hearing.

Benefits of the New Summary Judgement Rule

Florida courts indicated that their goals for making this change were to improve the fairness of Florida’s court system, reduce expenses and time spent on needless litigation, and preserve juries for when they are truly needed. Florida courts stated that they decided to adopt Federal Rule 56 because it is “more rational [and] more fair…”, and “to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action.”

This change is very timely in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, more than ever, Florida courts are backlogged and trying to catch up on cases. This new rule is expected to result in more summary judgments in Florida courts, which will allow the courts to clear out unnecessary litigation and conserve important resources for other cases.