by Gregory Holder, Esq.
On April 29, 2021, the Florida Supreme Court issued a per curiam opinion in Case: SC20-1490 (see, 46 Fla.L.Weekly S95a). In this opinion, the Florida Supreme Court further amended the summary judgment (“SJ”) Rule 1.510, Fla.R.Civ.P. to align with Rule 56, Fed.R.Civ.P. These changes became effective May 1, 2021, and will significantly affect both pending and future litigation, particularly in first party property insurance. Like the “old Rule 1.510,” “The Court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Moreover, the amended rule specifically provides that the new summary judgment standard shall be interpreted in accordance with the Federal Rule 56 standard and case law. Thus, your attorneys have a broad base of decisional law giving the Florida Judges much broader discretion in ruling upon these critical dispositive motions.
The key points of this new rule are as follows: First, Florida Courts must now focus on “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury.” (See, Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251). Second, the moving party that does not bear the burden of persuasion at trial can obtain summary judgment without disproving the nonmovant’s case. Thus, “[I]f the nonmoving party must prove X to prevail [at trial], the moving party at summary judgment can either produce evidence that X is not so or point out the nonmoving party lacks the evidence to prove X.” (See, Bedford, 880 F.3d 993, 996-97). And third, the new standard defines the correct test for the existence of genuine factual dispute as whether “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” (Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248).
The new rule also modifies the procedure involved in such motions. Movants must now file the SJ motion at least 40 days before the hearing and the nonmovant must respond with its position at least 20 days before the hearing. Perhaps most importantly, the presiding judge must state on the record the reasons for granting or denying the motion. The new standard applies to all summary judgment motions decided on or after May 1, 2021, and with respect to SJ motions denied under the old rule, the court should give the parties the opportunity to file a renewed SJ motion under this new rule.
Former Hillsborough County Circuit Court Judge Gregory Holder served as a jurist for 26 years and retired from the bench as of December 31, 2020. He is now practicing with the Zinober Diana & Monteverde law firm with offices in Ft. Lauderdale, St. Petersburg, and Tampa. Greg has been described as a fierce and fair jurist, presiding over thousands of cases, many of which were property insurance disputes. Greg can be reached at the Tampa offices of ZDM at, [email protected]; (813) 642-4229. LMA welcomes his wisdom and input in the work of our readers and insurance professionals.
LMA Newsletter of 5-3-21