Summarizing Proposed Changes to Florida Rules of Civil Procedure

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The Florida Supreme Court has taken steps to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of civil litigation, and it has issued two[1] separate[2] per curiam opinions introducing proposed substantial amendments to the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure (the “Rules”) in order to expedite what has proven to be a backlog of cases (recently, a judge in Miami-Dade County stated that he was overseeing over 1,100 cases). The proposed rules are set to take effect on January 1, 2025, and these changes are designed to streamline case management, encourage cooperation among parties, expedite the resolution of civil disputes and include a new rule imposing discovery meet and conferral requirements.

The Reason for Change

The Court’s amendments respond to the recommendations of the Workgroup on Improved Resolution of Civil Cases (the “Workgroup”) which was formed in 2019. The Workgroup’s primary objective was to examine existing laws, rules, and practices related to civil procedure and case management, and propose changes that could enhance civil cases’ timely, cost-effective, and fair resolution.

Recognizing the need for early judicial intervention upon the filing of actions and adherence to established deadlines, the Workgroup submitted a comprehensive report proposing extensive amendments to multiple rules. While the Court initially declined to adopt the proposed amendments, it referred the matter to The Florida Bar’s Civil Procedure Rules Committee (the “Committee”) for further review.

The Committee’s subsequent report, which included two alternative proposals, formed the basis for the Court’s proposed amendments.

Changing the Face of Case Management

Rule 1.200: Case Management; Pretrial Procedure

The Court has proposed a wholly rewritten Rule 1.200 to establish a more structured and proactive approach to case management. The fundamental changes include:

    1. Case Track Assignment: Within 120 days of filing, each civil case must be assigned to one of three case management tracks: streamlined, general, or complex[3]] which is based not on monetary value but on the complexity and the amount of judicial attention that the case requires. This categorization is as follows:
      • The “streamlined” track is intended for cases with limited discovery needs, well-established legal issues, and an anticipated trial length of no more than three (3) days.
      • The “general” track encompasses cases that do not meet the criteria for either streamlined or complex.
      • Complex cases will continue to proceed under Rule 1.201.
    2. Administrative Orders: The chief judge of each judicial circuit must enter an administrative order addressing case management requirements. The circuits can then   base those requirements on local needs, resources, and potential available automation.
    3. Case Management Orders: For streamlined and general cases, the court must issue a case management order specifically including the projected trial period and setting deadlines for significant events and phases of the litigation process. These deadlines are to be consistent with the time standards already established in Florida Rule of General Practice and Judicial Administration 2.250(a)(1)(B) and must include: (1) service of complaints; (2) adding new parties; (3) completion of discovery; (4) resolution of motions, and (5) alternative dispute resolution. The order must also indicate that deadlines will be strictly enforced.
    4. Enforcement of Deadlines: Deadlines established in case management orders can only be changed by court order and not by agreement of the parties. Parties may submit agreed orders to extend deadlines if the extension does not alter later dates in the case management order. If a trial is not reached during the scheduled trial period, the court must enter an order establishing a new trial as soon as is reasonable to do so. 
    5. Case Management Conferences: A court may hold case management conferences at any time or upon proper request and notice by a party. The notice must identify the specific reasons for the conference and the motions to be heard. During these conferences, courts can address various issues including scheduling and pending motions other than those for summary judgment or those requiring evidentiary hearings.

Rule 1.201: Complex Litigation

Rule 1.201’s proposed amendments will continue to apply to complex cases, although there are now more detailed procedures for handling them, which are now designated under the case management framework established in Rule 1.200, including the following:

  1. Hearing on Complex Designation: The court may hold a hearing to determine whether a case should be designated as complex. This change provides flexibility in the designation process.
  2. Notification of Unnecessary Conferences or Hearings: Parties must notify the court immediately if a scheduled case management conference or hearing becomes unnecessary to promote efficiency for better allocation of judicial resources.
  3. Continuances Governed by Rule 1.460: The amended rule explicitly states that motions for trial continuances in complex cases are governed by Rule 1.460, which has been substantially revised to implement stricter requirements for the relief sought.

Emphasizing Cooperation in Discovery and Motion Practice

Rule 1.202: Conferral Before Filing Motions

Rule 1.202 is a proposed new rule designed to encourage parties to resolve disputes without court intervention when possible. The two central components of this rule are:

  1. Duty to Confer: Before filing a motion, except for those seeking injunctive relief or summary judgment, the movant must confer with the opposing party in a good-faith effort to resolve the contested issues.
  2. Certificate of Conferral: When conferral is required, the movant must file a Certificate of Conferral with the motion including the means of communication, the date of conferral and if there is agreement to the relief sought. The movant must also state the efforts made to obtain an agreement to the relief sought.

Rule 1.280: General Provisions Governing Discovery

The proposed amendments to Rule 1.280 incorporate significant changes with the goal of aligning Florida’s discovery rules with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. These proposals include:

  1. Proportionality: The scope of discovery under Rule 1.280(b)(1) now includes a proportionality requirement, similar to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1). Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter relevant to any party’s claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case. Proportionality is assessed by considering factors such as the importance of the issues, the amount in controversy, the parties’ relative access to information, the parties’ resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.
  2. Initial Discovery Disclosures: Rule 1.280(a) now requires parties to provide initial discovery disclosures without awaiting a discovery request unless the case is exempt under Rule 1.280(a)(2) or the court orders otherwise. These disclosures must be made within 60 days after service of the complaint or joinder and include information such as (1) the names and contact details of individuals likely to have discoverable information; (2) a description of documents and tangible things that may be used to support claims or defenses; (3) a computation of damages; and (4) any insurance agreements that may satisfy all or part of a judgment.
  3. Duty to Supplement: The amendments introduce a significantly new provision, Rule 1.280(f), which imposes a continuing discovery requirement on the parties to promptly supplement or correct their disclosures or discovery responses if they learn that the information provided is incomplete or incorrect.
  4. Electronically Stored Information (ESI): The amendments to Rule 1.280(d) address the discovery of ESI, allowing courts to limit the frequency or extent of discovery if it is unreasonably cumulative, duplicative, or burdensome or if the burden or expense outweighs the likely benefit. This change recognizes ESI discovery’s potential challenges and costs and provides courts with additional tools to manage it effectively.

Changing Approach to Trial and Summary Judgment

Rule 1.440: Setting Action for Trial

Rule 1.440’s proposed amendments streamline the process for setting cases for trial and align it with Rules 1.200 and 1.201, including:

  1. Eliminating the “At Issue” Requirement: The proposed amendment to the rule eliminates the requirement that a case be “at issue” before being set for trial. This change recognizes that the readiness of a case for trial is not necessarily tied to the closure of pleadings.
  2. Setting Trial Period: For cases subject to Rule 1.200 (streamlined and general cases), the court must enter an order fixing the trial period not later than 45 days before the projected trial period outlined in the case management order. For cases not subject to Rule 1.200 or 1.201, the court must enter an order fixing the trial period upon finding that the action is ready for trial. This is aimed at seeing that trial dates are set promptly and in accordance with the case management deadlines.
  3. Timing of Trial Period: Any order setting a trial period must schedule the trial to begin at least 30 days after the date of the court’s service of the order unless all parties agree otherwise. This requirement provides parties with sufficient notice and time to prepare for trial.

Rule 1.460: Motions to Continue Trial

As with Rule 1.200, the proposed Rule 1.460 is a complete rewrite. It expressly disfavors motions to continue trial and imposes strict requirements for them to be granted. Specifically:

  1. Continuances Disfavored: The amended rule states that motions to continue trial are disfavored and should rarely be granted and then only upon good cause shown. This is to discourage unnecessary delays.
  2. Motion Requirements: A motion to continue trial must be in writing, signed by the named party requesting the continuance, and filed promptly after the appearance of good cause. The motion must expressly state the basis of the need for continuance, whether the motion is opposed, the action and specific dates that will enable the movant to be ready for trial, and the proposed date by which the case will be ready for trial. The movant must also make reasonable efforts to confer with the non-moving party or opposing counsel about the need for a continuance.
  3. Dilatory Conduct: If a continuance is granted based on the dilatory conduct of an attorney or a named party, the court may impose sanctions on the attorney, the party, or both.
  4. Order on Motion for Continuance: When ruling on a motion to continue, the court must state the factual basis for the ruling on the record or in a written order. An order granting a continuance must set a new trial period and/or a case management conference.

Rule 1.510: Summary Judgment

The proposed Rule 1.510 looks to modify the timing and procedures for summary judgment motions to align with the case management objectives set forth in Rules 1.200 and 1.201, including:

  1. Response Deadline: The deadline for a non-movant to respond to a motion for summary judgment is now tied to the date of service of the motion rather than the hearing date. Under the amended rule, the response must be served no later than 60 days after service of the motion for summary judgment.
  2. Alignment with Case Management Deadlines: The amended rule ensures that summary judgment procedures adhere to the deadlines outlined in the case management orders required under Rules 1.200 and 1.201. This change promotes consistency and predictability in the scheduling of summary judgment proceedings.

Potential Impacts

After five years of building like-mindedness and the impact of the COVID-19 crisis in Florida courts, the Florida Supreme Court wants to enhance the efficiency of civil litigation. The proposed rules seek to implement a more structured approach to case management. The proposed rules encourage cooperation among parties and emphasize the timely resolution of issues with the goal of streamlining civil litigation and reducing unnecessary delays and costs.

Judges, attorneys, and all litigants will need to adapt to these requirements and, most importantly, embrace collaboration for the proposed amendments to achieve the goals of the Florida Supreme Court.

The proposed amendments are set to take effect on January 1, 2025, at 12:01 a.m. Attorneys in good standing with the Florida Bar, lawyers not licensed to practice in Florida, and nonlawyers are permitted to file comments on the proposed changes with the Florida Supreme Court and, if desired, may separately request oral argument. All comments must be filed by August 6, 2024.


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[1] [1] In re: Amendments to Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, Case No. SC2023-0962, 49 Fla. L. Weekly S137a (Fla. May 23, 2024).

[2] In re: Amendments to Florida Rules of Civil Procedure 1.510 and New Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.202, Case No. SC2024-0662, 49 Fla. L. Weekly S138a (Fla. May 23, 2024).

[3] Section 1.200(a), as amended, lists 18 actions, proceedings, claims, or petitions that are not subject to the revised Rule.