On Monday, May 3, 2021, Bressler's Florida Insurance Defense Group argued and won summary judgment under the new federal summary judgment standard that went into effect on May 1, 2021. This matter is believed to have been one of the first dispositive motions heard and argued under the recent change in law.
During the May 3, 2021 hearing, Judge Weiss in Orange County, FL stated that he was able to weigh credibility in ruling on the summary judgment under the new federal standard. This was incredibly important in the matter before the Court which involved a homeowner’s insurance claim where the Plaintiff denied any damage to the property prior to the loss. When the Court was presented with a home inspection report from two years earlier, revealing damage to the roof and interior, the Plaintiff came forward and attested that she was not aware of the damage and believed that new damage had occurred. As stated in the December 31, 2020 amendment and in Scott v. Harris, 550 US 372 (2007), “[w]hen opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment.” The Plaintiff’s attestations were simply incredible in light of the photographic evidence depicting damage in substantially similar areas.
Judge Weiss agreed with the Bressler team that the Plaintiff had made material false statements related to the condition of the property at the time it was purchased. As a result, the Court held that the Plaintiff had violated the “Fraud and Concealment” provision of the policy and that there was no coverage for the loss that was reported shortly before Hurricane Irma occurred.
The recent change in Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.510 will have a significant impact on the industry and the ability for insurer’s to prevail on issues that should never reach a jury. In the process of amending the Rule, the Florida Supreme Court stated that the goal is to “improve the fairness and efficiency of Florida’s civil justice system, to relieve parties from the expense and burdens of meritless litigation, and to save the work of juries for cases where there are real factual disputes that need resolution.” In re Amendments to Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.510, 2020 WL 7778179.