June 5, 2009

Florida Supreme Court Adopts New Rule of Civil Procedure for Complex Civil Litigation: 4-3 Decision Creates Specific Procedure for Judge Management of Complex Cases

Jennifer A. Mansfield

On May 28, 2009, the Florida Supreme Court approved amendments to the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, adding a new rule governing the management of complex litigation cases as well as various other rule amendments to integrate the new rules with the existing ones. The new rule, Rule 1.201, is titled “Complex Litigation.” The other amendments affect Rules 1.100, 1.200, 1.440 and the forms for Rules 1.997, 1.998 and 1.999.1

The new Rule 1.201 (“Complex Litigation Rule”) represents a sea change in procedure for the Florida Courts. The Supreme Court’s opinion adopting the new rule notes that the existing Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.545, entitled “Case Management,” instructs that “the trial judge shall take charge of all cases at an early stage in the litigation and shall control the progress of the case … .” Yet, the Florida civil court system historically has distinguished itself from the federal system by the control legal counsel has had on the progress of cases, rather than judicial control. While the federal rules of civil procedure have required case management conferences and court-imposed scheduling deadlines as a matter of practice for some time, the Florida courts have not. In Florida courts, individual judges determine whether – and to what extent – to manage the cases on the court’s docket. Now, with the new Complex Litigation Rule, the parties or the court may move to have a case declared “complex.” If that happens, the new Rule 1.201 imposes a variety of case management conferences, reports and hearings to occur in a strictly controlled timeline, which culminates with a trial within two years of the initial case management conference.

The new Complex Litigation Rule is to take effect immediately. Other amendments to existing rules, to help implement the new Complex Litigation Rule, are also to take effect immediately with the exception of a revised Civil Cover Sheet. The revised Civil Cover Sheet will not be implemented until January 1, 2010.

A brief overview of the new Complex Litigation Rule appears below. A full copy of the Florida Supreme Court’s opinion, with the rule amendments, is available by clicking on this link: http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2009/sc08-1141.pdf.

Summary of New Complex Litigation Rule Case Management Requirements

  • Motion or stipulation to declare a case complex. Such a motion must be made after all defendants have been served, unless a showing can be made to show the court why service has not been made on all defendants.
  • Hearing before court on motion to declare case complex (not required if parties stipulate). Factors for the court to consider in its decision are contained in Rule 1.201(a)(2).
  • Order (new Form 1.999) declaring case complex within 10 days of hearing.
  • Initial Case Management Conference must be held by the court within 60 days of declaring case complex. Lead counsel and a party representative must attend. The court must set trial no sooner than six months but no later than 24 months after the Initial Case Management Conference.

- parties must confer for preparation of a joint statement no later than 20 days before the Initial Case Management Conference

- Joint Statement must be filed no later than 14 days before the Initial Case Management Conference. The contents of the Joint Statement are governed by 1.201(b). Information required is typically found in federal case management reports, federal initial disclosures and pre-trial stipulations

  • Case Management Order must address all items required in the Joint Stipulation, plus:

- provide deadlines for expert witness disclosures, with 30 days for disclosure of rebuttal experts

- require a conference between the parties within 10 days of the expert disclosures for the purpose of agreeing to an expert and fact witness deposition schedule, with each side providing at least three alternative dates for its experts’ depositions, a party filing the deposition schedule with the court and no party altering the schedule without agreement by all parties or by court order (under penalty of sanctions)

- provide discovery deadlines

- schedule periodic case management conferences and hearings

- set a briefing schedule

- set a deadline for alternative dispute resolution

  • Periodic case management conferences and hearings require consultation between counsel at least 15 days before. If the parties stipulate that the case management conference or hearing is not necessary, they must notify the court. The court can sanction for failure to notify it that the conference or hearing is not necessary.
  • Final Case Management Conference no later than 90 days prior to the date set for trial.

- Parties confer at least 10 days before the Final Case Management Conference for preparation of Case Status Report. The Case Status Report requires information typical for a pre-trial stipulation, except for a certification by counsel that witness and exhibit lists will be filed with the clerk of court at least 48 hours prior to the date and time of the final case management conference.

- Case Status Report must be filed prior to or at the Final Case Management Conference.

Other Amendments

In order to implement the new Complex Litigation Rule, the Supreme Court approved amendments to the following:

  • Rule 1.100 (Pleadings and Motions) was amended to require parties to file a final disposition form with the clerk upon settlement of a case. The final disposition form, Form 1.998, was amended to assist the clerk with better tracking.
  • The existing Rule 1.200 (Pretrial Procedure) was amended to reference the new Rule 1.201. Likewise, Rule 1.440 (Setting Action for Trial) was amended to exclude from its application those complex actions governed by the new Rule 1.201.
  • The Civil Cover Sheet, Form 1.997, was substantially amended in order to better track cases through the court system. The revised form contains many more categories of cases for the clerk to track, as well as a certification from the filing attorney that the classifications indicated on the form are accurate to the best of the attorney’s knowledge and belief. Because of the substantial changes, the Supreme Court delayed the implementation of the revised form until January 1, 2010.


 1 The Florida Supreme Court also amended Florida Family Law Rule of Procedure 12.100 to clarify that the new civil procedure Rule 1.201 would not apply to family law cases and adopted new family law forms for use with tracking family law cases.

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