The good news keeps coming from the Sunshine State. Readers may remember that the Florida Supreme Court adopted the federal standard for summary judgment in late April, bringing it in line with 38 other states’ and ensuring that defendants are able to quickly end meritless lawsuits. Back in 2018, it adopted more stringent rules for admitting expert testimony in Florida state courts.
Now, in another important change to the state’s long-abused civil justice system, the Florida Supreme Court has adopted what’s known as the “apex doctrine” to deter a common and abusive litigation tactic.
For far too long, Florida’s trial lawyers have used the discovery process to drive up legal costs, prolong the length of cases, and harass corporate executives by attempting to force high-ranking company officials to sit for depositions when their testimony wasn’t likely to offer unique or useful information.
The adoption of the apex doctrine will rein in that abuse. Previously, the doctrine shielded high-ranking government officials from abusive litigation or discovery requests. Now, effective immediately, the doctrine extends to all Florida litigants.
Under the state’s new rule, both government and business employees can ask to be excused from a deposition if, for example, the employee has little to no knowledge of the issue being litigated. If the trial court grants the exception, the plaintiffs’ lawyers would need to prove they exhausted all other discovery options or prove a disposition is necessary because the employee does, in fact, have unique personal knowledge on the issue.
For the past few years, Florida’s lawsuit system has been on an uphill swing. Expanding the apex doctrine to everyone involved in lawsuits in the state shows the needle is still moving in the right direction.