Recently, the Supreme Court of Florida answered a certified question regarding the state’s current summary judgment standard. The lower court certified a question asking the court whether there should be an exception to the summary judgment standard when the moving party has video evidence that refutes any evidence that the non-moving party presents.
The case arose after a fatal Florida rear-end car accident. The decedent’s estate filed a lawsuit against the front-car driver and the driver’s employer. At trial, the court relied on the front-car driver’s video evidence showing that the driver was not negligent. However, the appellate court reversed, stating that the trial court “improperly weighed’ conflicting evidence, leading to the certified question.
In the last year, the Florida Supreme Court advised the public of its intention to adopt the summary judgment standard explained by the United States Supreme Court. The court explained that despite the similarities, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure had not been aligned. The first difference stems from Florida courts’ refusal to recognize the similarities between summary judgment standards and directed verdicts. Next, Florida courts place the burden on the moving party to disprove the other party’s case theory, to successfully eliminate any issue of fact. Federal courts discharge the moving party’s burden when there is an absence of evidence to support the other party’s case. Finally, Florida courts permit a broad understanding of what amounts to a “genuine issue of material fact”, where the “slightest doubt” is enough to preclude summary judgment. Florida courts have announced that the federal standard best serves the civil procedure rules, and the change will take place in May 2021.