Last month the Florida Supreme Court left decades of precedent behind when it formally abandoned its state standard for evaluating a party’s entitlement to summary judgment under Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.510 in favor of the more liberal federal standard. In re Amendments to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.510, SC20-1490, 2020 WL 7778179 (Fla. Dec. 31, 2020). The procedure outlined in both the federal and state summary judgment rules contain similar wording and provide a summary procedure for obtaining judgment without a full trial. Both rules share the same purpose of securing “the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action.”
Despite the rule’s similarities, the Court noted federal and Florida jurisprudence differed significantly when applying the summary judgment standard established by their respective procedural rules. With the amendment to rule 1.510 (effective May 1, 2021), Florida courts will be required to (1) evaluate motions for summary judgment and motions for directed verdict under the same standard, (2) grant summary judgment to the movant if the non-movant fails to support its claims with evidence, eliminating Florida’s requirement that each claim of the non-movant be disproved regardless of evidentiary support, and (3) grant summary judgment if no reasonable jury could interpret the evidence to support a claim for the non-movant.
The Court noted its intended purpose for amending Rule 1.510 was to further its goals of (1) improving “the fairness and efficiency of Florida’s civil justice system,” (2) relieving “parties from the expense and burden of meritless litigation,” and (3) saving “the work of juries for cases where there are real factual disputes that need resolution.” Since there is a plethora of precedent applying the federal summary judgment standard, the amendments should be easily adopted and applied by Florida courts and promptly accomplish the Court’s stated goals.
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