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Florida Officially Amends Its Summary Judgment Rule Ahead of the May 1 Effective Date

April 30, 2021

What you need to know about Florida’s adoption of the federal summary judgment standard when it goes into effect on May 1.

The Florida Supreme Court’s decision to adopt the federal summary judgment standard in WilsonArt v. Lopez case is now underscored by the court’s near-verbatim adoption of federal rule 56. In what appears to be an effort to expedite the federal standard’s integration into Florida practice, the court added the following language to Rule 1.510(a): “The summary judgment standard provided for in this rule shall be construed and applied in accordance with the federal summary judgment standard.” In re Amends to Fla. Rule of Civ. Pro. 1.510, No. SC20-1490 (Fla. Apr. 29, 2021). While it remains to be seen how Florida’s trial courts interpret the new standard, the Florida Supreme Court explained that its “act of transplanting federal rule 56 brings with it the ‘old soil’ of case law interpreting that rule.”

Some key differences and distinctions for Florida practitioners are noted below.
Practice Highlights:

1. Florida’s deadlines are more generous than before and are intended to reduce gamesmanship. The new rule requires that a summary judgment motion be filed at least 40 (not 20) days before the hearing. The nonmovant must respond with its factual position at least 20 (not 5 or 2) days before the hearing.

2. Summary Judgment is no longer disfavored in Florida. As the court announced in WilsonArt v. Lopez, the principles of the Celotex trilogy stand for the proposition that “[s]ummary judgment procedure is properly regarded not as a disfavored procedural shortcut, but rather as an integral part” of rules aimed at “the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action.” This will be a welcome change, especially given the backlog created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

3. The Florida Supreme Court seems to be encouraging parties and courts to utilize the new rule and standard. The rule change reiterated the court’s holding in Wilsonart, LLC v. Lopez, 308 So. 3d 961, 964 (Fla. 2020), and made it clear that courts should give parties the opportunity to file a renewed summary judgment motion under the new rule when the motion was denied under the previous Florida Standard. The court also stated that, in cases where pending summary judgment motions are briefed but not decided, the court should allow the parties a reasonable opportunity to amend their filings to comply with the new rule. However, the court noted that “any pending rehearing of a summary judgment motion decided under the pre-amendment rule should be decided under the pre-amendment rule, subject of course to a party’s ability to file a renewed motion for summary judgment under the new rule.”

4. The “slightest doubt” standard is dead and judges are empowered to utilize their common sense when evaluating summary judgment motions. The court cited Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372 (2007), to emphasize that under Florida’s new rule, “[w]hen opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment.”

5. Practitioners must rely on federal case law. The court acknowledged that while the Celotex trilogy is a bedrock of the federal summary judgment standard, “30 years of practice under the trilogy has refined and added to the trilogy and that “courts applying the new rule must be guided not only by the Celotex trilogy, but by the overall body of case law interpreting federal rule 56.”

6. Florida courts will now have to state on the record its reasons for granting or denying a summary judgment. This will ensure that the courts are applying the correct standard.

See Florida’s new Rule 1.510 on Summary Judgment here:

See Supreme Court opinion here:



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