Court Addresses Florida’s Evolving Summary Judgment Standard in Car Accident Lawsuit

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.

The appellate court then certified a question to the state Supreme Court, asking whether a final summary judgment motion is appropriate when the moving party provides video evidence that completely refutes any conflicting evidence. After hearing from various parties and holding oral arguments, the court then adopted the standard but did not apply it to the current case. They advised that although they upheld the appellate court’s ruling, the defendant could file a new motion when the new rule goes into effect.

The change in Florida’s rules will increase a party’s likelihood of success on a summary judgment motion. This change will impact both defendants and plaintiffs, and it is essential that personal injury victims retain experienced attorneys who understand the changing posture of the law. The shift may provide attorneys with relevant prior federal decisions that may help them develop effective and strategic case plans.

Have You Suffered Injuries in a Florida Accident?

If you or someone you love has suffered injuries or died in a Florida car accident, the attorneys at Frankl Kominsky can help you understand your rights and pursue the remedies you are entitled to. Our attorneys understand the importance of keeping apprised of all relevant legal changes that may impact our clients. Our practice handles claims stemming from car, truck, motorcycle, bike, and boat accidents, premises liability, product liability, medical malpractice, and wrongful death. Our diligent attorneys have represented clients in many complex cases, successfully recovering damages on their behalf. Contact our office at 561-567-0298 to schedule your free initial consultation with an attorney at our law firm.

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