Summary judgment is a crucial procedural tool that has many implications for Florida car accident plaintiffs. The summary judgment stage occurs before trial, during which time either party can ask the court to rule in their favor. Either party can use all of the evidence they obtained during the discovery phase to support their motion. A ruling is only appropriate if the moving party shows there is no genuine issue of material fact.
At the end of 2020, The Florida Supreme Court decided to modify its Civil Procedure Rules. The ruling will go into effect on May 1st, 2021, and will amend Florida’s rules to comport with the federal summary judgment standard. The changes are critically important in Florida accident cases, and plaintiffs must understand how the rules will impact their lawsuits. The Court reasoned that the change would “improve the fairness and efficiency” of the state’s civil justice system.
The court’s opinion arose from a fatal rear-end Florida car accident. The decedent filed a lawsuit against the front-truck driver and his employer. During the trial, the defendant-company, presented video evidence from a dashcam, establishing that its driver did not cause the accident. The defendant moved for summary judgment based on the video, arguing that the video served as undeniable evidence that the driver was not negligent. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion, but the appellate court reversed the trial court’s ruling, based on Florida’s prevailing summary judgment standards.