In response to the Florida Supreme Court’s Order dated April 13, 2021 which drastically changes compliance with the administrative rules that govern how Civil cases are to be handled across the state, The Circuit Court of Broward County recently issued its Administrative Order 2021-19-Civ, which establishes and implements a new civil case management plan. Attorneys across the state are still trying to process what these orders mean and how they will impact their client’s cases.
The Courts now are commanded to require STRICT COMPLIANCE WITH ALL DEADLINES MANDATORILY. Judges are now required to conclude litigation as soon as it is reasonably and justly possible to do so, to take charge of all cases at an early stage and to actively control the progress of the cases thereafter until they are determined, and to apply a firm continuance policy allowing continuances only for good cause shown. While some have criticized this rule as being too close to stringent Federal Court regulations, others see the positive in it: preventing relatively routine case from being drawn out for years on end.
Now, upon the filing of a new civil case, the Clerk of Court shall designate each case as complex, streamlined, or general based upon information listed on the Civil Cover Sheet and according to the case classifications judges may transfer cases from one category to another at their discretion. The designation is important because of the projected trial date imposed on that classification.
Streamlined: Projected date of Trial within 12 months of case filing.
General Civil: Projected date of Trial within 18 months of case filing.
Complex: Projected date of Trial within 24 months of case filing.
The uniform trial date is a firm trial date and deadlines will be strictly enforced by the court. Strict compliance means no continuances or extensions will be granted without court order upon written motion setting forth good cause. This is different now because judges used to have wide latitude and discretion on scheduling trial dates.
The Court also will order a MANDATORY Case Management Conference early in the litigation process. All counsel and any self-represented parties MUST appear at the hearing and have their calendars to schedule future matters. FAILURE TO APPEAR AS DIRECTED MAY RESULT IN THE DISMISSAL OF THE ACTION OR OTHER SANCTIONS. This hearing may be canceled: (1) If the parties set the matter for trial prior to the case management conference date; (2) If the action is settled and a Final Order of Dismissal is issued; or (3) The action is dismissed.
The Complaint shall be served within 120 days of filing. Failure to perfect service within 120 days shall subject the action to dismissal without prejudice or dropping of that party as a defendant. If plaintiff shows good cause or excusable neglect for failure to serve within 120 days, the court shall extend the time for service for an appropriate period.
The plaintiff(s) shall immediately notify the Court if all defendants have been served by filing an appropriate notice. If all defendants have not been served by the required date, the plaintiff(s) shall notify the Court by filing an appropriate notice and shall further notify the Court by filing a notice upon service of the complaint on the last defendant.
The Uniform Trial Order will be issued when the case is at issue. This means after any motions directed to the last pleading served have been disposed of or, if no such motions are served, 20 days after service of the last pleading. This usually means when the defendant has filed an Answer to the Complaint. The Uniform Trial Order specifically sets forth time deadlines for the completion of Witness Lists, Compulsory Medical Examinations, Discovery, Motions, Exhibit Lists, Daubert Challenges, Jury Instructions, and Mediation prior to trial.
The impact of this new system is yet to be seen but the intent is to make up for the huge backlog of civil trial cases created by the pandemic. As is usually the case, the burden will be upon the Plaintiff’s attorneys to move the case in accordance with the time deadlines of the Order and, as a practical matter when possible, to consider being prepared for trial even before filing the Complaint.
To learn more about how this may impact your current claim or a case you may have in the future, please feel free to contact us at the personal injury litigation firm of Cutler Rader.