The forecast for Florida’s lawsuit climate has gotten a bit sunnier, thanks to a recent Florida Supreme Court decision to correct a long-standing imbalance in the state’s lawsuit system.
Recently, the Court announced it would adopt the federal standard for summary judgment by amending Florida’s own Rule of Civil Procedure 1.510. Summary judgment allows for cases to be decided without going to an expensive and time-consuming trial. Florida’s standard required a moving defendant to effectively disprove the plaintiff’s case in order to succeed, allowing even the slightest doubt about a material fact to prevent summary judgment. This standard made it nearly impossible for a defendant to get a summary judgment motion granted.
Both Florida’s proposed standard and the federal standard are designed to “secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action.” Adopting this reasonable proposal will bring the state’s civil procedure rules in line with most other states and the federal system.
One group that doesn’t like summary judgment? Florida’s plaintiffs’ lawyers, who prefer time-consuming and expensive trials to drive up verdicts and increase their paydays. Over the years, the trial bar has run roughshod over the state’s lawsuit system at the expense of Florida’s economic growth. A 2018 ILR study found the cost of Florida’s tort system equaled 3.6 percent of its gross domestic product, or more than $4,400 a year per household. Forcing lawsuits into unnecessary trials certainly plays a key part in increasing those costs.
Last week, ILR and the Florida Chamber of Commerce encouraged the Court to finalize its rule, strengthen the rule of law and make the system fairer for everyone.
For more than a decade, Florida’s lawsuit climate has ranked low in ILR’s lawsuit climate survey, holding steady at 46 in 2019. Amending Rule 1.510—the latest in a long line of reforms—is another important milestone to improve Florida’s lawsuit climate.