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The below content previously appeared in the May/June 2021 issue of the Broward County Bar Association’s Barrister magazine. 

By Debra P. Klauber, Esq.

Florida Supreme Court Updates

New Case Management Requirements Initiated by Administrative Order

In an ongoing effort to balance the public interest in moving cases forward with the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Florida Supreme Court has made additional amendments to its Administrative Order 20-23, which originally went into effect at the close of business on March 13, 2020. The most noteworthy amendment, number 12, created civil case management requirements. The Florida Supreme Court ordered the chief judges of the circuit and county courts throughout Florida to issue their own administrative orders requiring all presiding judges in civil cases to actively manage their dockets by implementing a case management process for complex, streamlined and general civil cases. Among other goals, these case management orders are designed to establish a firm trial date in hopes of maximizing the resolution of cases. Each circuit has issued an administrative order and implemented its own method by which these case management orders will be issued, often with circuit-specific forms. In re: Comprehensive COVID-19 Emergency Measures for Florida Trial Courts, No. AOSC20-23, Amendment 12.

After adopting the federal summary judgment standard, the Florida Supreme Court also adopted the text of the federal rule of procedure.

In a concerted effort to “abandon certain features of Florida’s jurisprudence that have unduly hindered the use of the summary judgment standard in our state,” the Florida Supreme Court adopted the federal summary judgment standard, effective May 1, 2021. In its decision adopting the text of the federal rule, the court also pointed out several things of note to litigants. First, there is now a fundamental similarity between the summary judgment standard and the directed verdict standard. Second, a moving party that does not bear the burden of persuasion at trial can obtain a summary judgment without “disproving” the nonmovant’s case. Third, the correct test for the existence of a genuine factual dispute is whether “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Thus, in Florida, it will no longer be the case that any question of fact will be sufficient to preclude the entry of summary judgment.  The new rule also makes it mandatory for a trial court to state on the record its reasons for granting or denying a summary judgment, and the Florida Supreme Court has further explained that “it will not be enough for the court to make a conclusory statement that there is or is not a genuine dispute as to a material fact.” Instead, the court must state the reasons for its decision with specificity which will provide guidance to the parties and the appellate courts. In keeping with longstanding Florida practices, the new rule continues to tie the filing of a motion and response to the hearing date. The motion must be filed at least 40 days before the hearing, with the response filed 20 days before the hearing. Finally, the new rule applies to any summary judgment motion decided after its effective date, so it does apply to pending cases, and in pending cases where summary judgment has been denied under the prior rule, renewed motions should be considered. In re: Amendments to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.510, SC20-1490, 46 Fla. L. Weekly S95 (Fla. April 9, 2021).

Florida Supreme Court adopts changes to medical malpractice presuit procedures.

In another amendment to the rules of procedure, the Florida Supreme Court amended Rule 1.650 in order to create consistency with the presuit procedures permitted under the Florida Statutes. The rule now specifically allows for the exchange of written questions and unsworn statements of treating healthcare providers, as already contemplated by the informal presuit discovery provisions set forth in section 766.106(6) of the Florida Statutes. In re: Amendments to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.650, SC20-1239, 46 Fla. L. Weekly S60 (Fla. April 8, 2021).

Florida Supreme Court also amends the rule governing the substitution of parties after the death of a party to litigation.

In order to “delete archaic language” and clarify that a statement noting the death of a party must be filed and served on all parties, the Florida Supreme Court also adopted some changes to Rule 1.260. The rule still requires a motion for substitution to be made within 90 days after a statement noting the death of a party, and has only been modified to clarify that those motions and statements must be filed and served in accordance with the Rules of General Practice and Judicial Administration.  In re: Amendments to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.260, SC20-1240, 46 Fla. L. Weekly S60 (Fla. April 8, 2021).

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