Cases applying the 2021 amendments to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.510, often referred to as the summary judgment rule, are starting to filter through the appellate courts. The Fourth DCA recently applied portions of the rule which were changed by the amendment to two cases: Tucker v. LNV Corp., No. 4D22-984, 2023 WL 3606462 (Fla. 4th DCA May 24, 2023) and Brown v. Regan, No. 4D22-2352, 2023 WL 4094879 (Fla. 4th DCA June 21, 2023). Tucker involved a residential foreclosure which was resolved on summary judgment in favor of the lender based on a rule 1.510 motion and hearing.[i] The borrower appealed the foreclosure judgment claiming that it lacked the necessary findings required by amended rule 1.510 because the judgment contained only “a conclusory statement that there is or is not a genuine dispute as to a material issue.”
The Court’s analysis pertained to a portion of subsection (a) of rule 1.510 which reads in pertinent part: “The court shall state on the record the reasons for granting or denying the motion.” Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.510(a). Notably, to satisfy the “state on the record” requirement, the court can make oral pronouncements or include written findings in the judgment. Although, the above provision is mandatory, the Fourth DCA found that it was precluded from reaching the merits of the issue for two reasons: Firstly, the borrower failed to provide a transcript of the proceedings so the Court could not determine if the trial court orally pronounced the factual findings thereby satisfying the “on the record” requirement. The Court noted: “The most salient impediment to meaningful review of the trial court’s decision is not the absence of findings, but the absence of a transcript.”[ii]
Secondly, the Court explained that the alleged lack of adequate findings in the judgment – appearing for the first time on the face of the judgment – had to be the subject of a motion for rehearing so the lower court could correct any error without the need for appellate intervention.[iii] By failing to bring the issue to the trial court prior to raising it on appeal, Tucker waived any deficiencies stemming from the court’s findings. However, the Fourth DCA did reverse a portion of the judgment which awarded attorneys’ fees based on LNV Corp.’s failure to comply with the increased time requirement for filing the motion along with “[s]upporting factual positions” at least 40-days[iv] prior to the hearing.
Similarly, in Brown, the Fourth DCA reviewed a final summary judgment under the newly amended standards of rule 1.510, this time in a constructive trust case.[v] In Brown, the Court found the summary judgment lacked the requisite factual findings required by rule 1.510(a) because “the order only vaguely described the factual history of the underlying theft and fraud and did not recite the legal background ‘with enough specificity’ for appellate review.” The Court reversed the judgment and remanded for further proceedings.
[i] Tucker, at 1. All future quotations or references are to this citation until indicated otherwise.
[ii] Tucker, at 1 (quoting Esaw v. Esaw, 965 So. 2d 1261, 1264 (Fla. 2d DCA 2007)).
[iii] Tucker, at 2.
[iv] Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.510(C). The pre-amended version of the rule only required 20 days.
[v] Brown, at 1. All future quotations or references are to this citation until indicated otherwise.