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In 2021, the Florida Supreme Court amended Rule 1.510, Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, which governs summary judgment. In short, summary judgment is a procedural tool that permits courts to allow only cases with genuine issues of material facts to proceed to trial.2 In Whitlow v. Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare, Inc., the First District Court of Appeal (“DCA”) addressed the revision to rule 1.510 and its impact on cases in Florida.3 Understanding this change is critical for practitioners and those looking to proceed through Florida’s state court system.

For purposes of this blog, the facts of Whitlow will only be briefly summarized, as it involved a slip-and-fall injury at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital.4 Ms. Whitlow alleged that she slipped on water left by employees pushing a stretcher out of an elevator immediately before she entered.5 The DCA noted that pursuant to statute, Ms. Whitlow had to prove that the hospital “had ‘knowledge of the dangerous condition and should have taken action to remedy it.’”6 The DCA agreed with the lower court that Ms. Whitlow “failed to present substantive evidence from which a jury reasonably could infer that the [hospital] employees knew of the dripping water . . . or that the employees could have done anything to correct the unsafe condition in the short time” between when the employees got off the elevator with the stretcher and she got on.7 The court thus affirmed the lower court’s granting of summary judgment in favor of the hospital, meaning that Ms. Whitlow did not “come forward with evidence that could lead a rational jury to find in her favor.”8 

For purposes of this blog, the key aspects of the Whitlow opinion are the DCA’s discussion of the history of summary judgment and the relatively new standard being used by Florida’s state courts. The DCA begins its analysis with an excellent historical overview of the right to trial by jury and its importance under federal and Florida law, with roots dating back to ancient English common law.9 As the DCA notes in Whitlow, the right to trial by jury is a matter of substance, not procedure, leaving “open the possibility that the legislative or judicial power could develop mechanisms of procedural expediency to weed out cases that lacked a genuine dispute over facts requiring court resolution.”10 Judges are free to determine if the evidence presented is sufficient to warrant a trial by jury, “provided the judge limit[s] the assessment to the quantum of evidence and not the weight of it.”11 One such method judges use to make such a determination is the directed verdict, which permits judges “to take the case from the jury without running afoul of the constitutional right, provided he concluded ‘as a matter of law that no recovery can be lawfully had upon any view taken of facts that the evidence tends to establish.’”12 The directed verdict is sought during the course of the trial.13

Summary judgment is another tool judges can use in determining if a case should proceed to a jury, although that determination occurs before the trial begins.14 The United States Supreme Court adopted a summary judgment rule applicable to all civil cases; similarly, the Florida Supreme Court also adopted such a rule.15 The Florida Supreme Court has urged lower courts to exercise caution in utilizing the summary judgment power.16 The new Rule 1.510 adopted by the Florida Supreme Court mirrors the summary judgment standard set forth in Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.17 According to the DCA, this change “represents a return to the procedural expediencies that the supreme court had approved over a century earlier as complementing, rather than conflicting with, the right to a trial by jury.”18 The Florida Supreme Court “essentially requires that the directed verdict standard—which it has approved for application mid-trials since the nineteenth century—now to be applied pre-trial as well.”19 As the DCA notes, “The function of the trial court at the summary judgment stage is not ‘to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.’”20 The non-moving (i.e., the party who did not file the summary judgment motion) party has the burden “to come forward with evidence showing a ‘dispute about a material fact [that] is “genuine,”’ or, in other words, demonstrate that ‘the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the’ party opposing the motion.”21 If the non-moving party fails to meet that burden, the trial court “may grant summary judgment against the party without running afoul of the constitution’s jury-trial guarantee.”22

Turning to the case at issue, the DCA held that the trial court correctly determined that “Whitlow failed to come forward with evidence that demonstrated one or more genuine disputes of material fact that required resolution by a jury.”23 In making its determination, the DCA reviewed the trial court’s decision de novo (Latin for “anew”), meaning the court does not owe the trial court’s decision deference.24

The revised Rule 1.510 will have far-reaching consequences for litigants in Florida. It is critical that practitioners and clients understand this change and consider its application in determining whether to proceed to filing a claim in state court.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding this topic, or any topic related to labor and employment law, please contact us.



1 Credit to Coach Lee Corso for popularizing the catchphrase.

2 See Whitlow v. Tallahassee Mem’l Healthcare, Inc., No. 1D21-3413 (Fla. 1st DCA Aug. 16, 2023), available at (last visited Oct. 2, 2023).

3 See id.

4 Id., at *1.

5 Id.

6 Id., at *1-2 (citing section 768.0755(1), Florida Statutes.

7 Id., at *2.

8 Id. 2

9 Id., at *2. The right to a trial by jury in civil matters is enshrined in the United States and the Florida Constitutions. U.S. Const. amen. VII; Art. I, § 22, Fla. Const. Furthermore, the denial of the right to trial by a jury was one of the grievances raised by the colonists against the Crown in the Declaration of Independence. Whitlow, at *2-3.

10 Id., at *4.

11 Id.

12 Id., at *5 (citation omitted).

13 Id., at *9.

14 Id., at *6.

15 Id., at *7.

16 Id., at *8.

17 Id.

18 Id., at *8-9.

19 Id., at *9.

20 Id. (citation omitted).

21 Id., at *9-10 (citation omitted).

22 Id., at *10.

23 Id., at *10, 15.

24 See id., at *10.



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