Court Addresses Summary Judgment Standard in Florida Car Accident Case

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.

In this case, the appellate court premised its question on the fact that the technological advancements will inevitably increase the frequency of video and digital evidence in the trial and pretrial proceedings. The court agreed that Florida should adopt the federal summary judgment standard, but they declined to find that the existing summary judgment standard is erroneous. Therefore, the court did not find any reason to amend the current summary judgment rule and add a rule for cases involving video or digital evidence. In declining to take up the issue, they did so without endorsing the “slightest doubt” standard under existing law.

Have You Suffered Injuries in a Florida Car Accident?

If you or someone you love has suffered injuries in a Florida car accident, contact the law firm of Friedman Rodman Frank & Estrada to discuss your rights. The attorneys at our firm handle an array of cases stemming from claims related to motor vehicle accidents, product liability, premises liability, medical malpractice, and wrongful death. Our attorneys understand the importance of keeping up to date with the evolving nature of tort laws. We make sure to provide clients with personalized and strategic case strategies to maximize their chances of recovery. Through our diligent representation, clients have recovered damages for their medical expenses, property damage, pain and suffering, and other related losses. Contact our office at 877-448-8585, to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney at our law firm.

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