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Florida Supreme Court further amends Florida’s summary judgment rule, Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.510, to mirror more lenient federal summary judgment standard

As previously reported in this blog, on December 31, 2020, the Florida Supreme Court amended Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.510, governing summary judgments in civil cases, by adopting the more lenient standard applicable in federal court. See In re Amends. to Fla. Rule of Civ. Pro. 1.510, 309 So. 3d 192, 192 (Fla. 2020). On April 29, 2021, In Re: Amendment to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.510, No. SC20-1490, was issued by the Court further amending Rule 1.510. After having received comments and hearing oral argument, the Florida Supreme Court decided to adopt the text of the federal summary judgment rule itself, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. The effective date of these amendments remains May 1, 2021. This means that the new rule governs the adjudication of any summary judgment motion decided on or after that date, including in pending cases.

The Court stated that those applying new rule 1.510 must recognize the fundamental similarity between the new summary judgment standard and the directed verdict standard. Both standards focus on whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury, and under both standards the substantive evidentiary burden of proof that the respective parties must meet at trial is the only touchstone that accurately measures whether a genuine issue of material fact exists to be tried. In addition, those applying new rule 1.510 must recognize that a moving party that does not bear the burden of persuasion at trial can obtain summary judgment without disproving the nonmovant’s case. If 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 that the nonmoving party lacks the evidence to prove X. A movant for summary judgment need not set forth evidence when the nonmovant bears the burden of persuasion at trial. Finally, those applying new rule 1.510 must recognize that 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. The Court specifically noted that In Florida it will no longer be plausible to maintain that the existence of any competent evidence creating an issue of fact, however credible or incredible, substantial or trivial, stops the inquiry and precludes summary judgment, so long as the slightest doubt is raised.

New rule 1.510 states that a summary judgment motion must be filed at least 40 days before the time fixed for a hearing and that the nonmovant must respond with its supporting factual position at least 20 days before the hearing.