We are pleased to report on a change in Florida law that erases more than fifty years of law that had supported an almost insurmountable standard for obtaining summary judgment.
Based on a 1966 decision from the Florida Supreme Court, a party moving for summary judgment had the burden of “conclusively” disproving the non-moving party’s theory of the case. Under this standard, even speculative evidence was used to defeat motions for summary judgment. That is about to change.
On December 31, 2020, the Florida Supreme Court issued a rule change that will bring Florida in line with the majority of jurisdictions across the country by adopting the federal standard for summary judgment. The rule change is a direct result of Wilsonart, LLC, v. Miguel Lopez, No. SC19-1336, 2020 WL 7778226 (Fla. Dec. 31, 2020), where Bowman and Brooke filed an amicus brief on behalf of PLAC.
In a rule amendment that was issued along with its Wilsonart opinion, the Court noted that the rules of civil procedure are meant “to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action.” In re Amendments to Fla. Rule of Civil Procedure 1.510., No. SC20-1490, 2020 WL 7778179 (Fla. Dec. 31, 2020). When it came down to picking which rule better achieves this purpose, the Court’s choice was clear: “the federal summary judgment standard is more rational, more fair, and more consistent with the structure and purpose of our rules of civil procedure.” In re Amendments, 2020 WL 7778179 at *2.
This rule change will impact nearly every civil case in Florida. By bringing Florida in line with the federal rule, we expect that courts will more seriously consider motions for summary judgment.