Effective the first of this month, Florida’s summary final judgment standard under Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.510 now aligns with the federal summary judgment standard under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. In re Amendments to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.510, 309 So. 3d 192, 194 (Fla. 2020). With this amendment, Florida joins the supermajority of states (39 in total) which adopted the federal standard for summary judgment.i The Florida Supreme Court explained that the change was necessary to “improve the fairness and efficiency of Florida’s civil justice system, to relieve parties from the expense and burdens of meritless litigation, and to save the work of juries for cases where there are real factual disputes that need resolution.”ii
The Court noted three “consequential differences” between Florida’s jurisprudence and federal jurisprudence that it intended to eliminate with the amendment. First, Florida will now use the same inquiry for motions for summary judgment and directed verdict, i.e., “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.”iii Second, there will no longer be a requirement that the moving party on summary judgment negate the opponent’s claim via “affidavits or other similar materials.”iv The movant may rely on the “absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party’s case” as the basis for entry of judgment. Third, “merely colorable” evidence or evidence that is “not significantly probative” will not create a “genuine issue of material fact” preventing summary judgment. Rather, to prevent summary judgment the evidence must be “such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
The Court concluded that the “federal summary judgment standard better comports with the text and purpose of rule 1.510” to “secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action.”v The Court elaborated that the summary judgment procedure should not be regarded “as a disfavored procedural shortcut, but rather an integral part of our rules as a whole.” Finally, the Court clarified that “summary judgment is not a substitute for the trial of disputed fact issues” – a bedrock principle that remains intact after the amendment.
This amendment to Rule 1.510 is a welcome change in Florida’s procedural policy which tended to disfavor the summary judgment procedure. Implementation of this procedural change and relaxed standard should be smooth given the vast amount of federal and state jurisprudence available to guide us through the process.
i In re Amendments, 309 So. 3d at 192.
ii In re Amendments, 309 So. 3d at 194.
iii In re Amendments, 309 So. 3d at 192.
iv In re Amendments, 309 So. 3d at 193. All future citations and quotations are to this cite unless indicated otherwise.
v In re Amendments, 309 So. 3d at 194. All future citations and quotations are to this cite unless indicated otherwise.