As an attorney practicing in Amelia Island, Florida, I understand the importance of being prepared when faced with complex civil litigation. My passion for civil procedure began during my time at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, Florida’s #1 law school, where I had the privilege of studying under the guidance of Professor Pedro A. Malavet. I am grateful for the opportunity to have learned from such a knowledgeable and experienced professor, and I am excited to share some of the valuable information I have gained through my education and over 10 years of practice in Florida.
I vividly recall my first impressions of the beautiful UF Law campus, with its stately buildings and lush greenery. At first, the thought of studying civil procedure terrified me. It seemed daunting and complex, but as I delved deeper into the subject, I discovered a newfound appreciation for it. Civil procedure is primarily based on statutes and rules, and anyone who can read can learn it. With this in mind, I am publishing this comprehensive guide as a “public good” to help potential clients in Florida understand and navigate the civil litigation process, particularly in complex cases.
Case Management Conference, Joint Statement, and Meet and Confer with Opposing Counsel
In complex cases, Florida courts require an initial case management conference to be held within 60 days of the case’s designation as complex. Prior to this conference, the parties must meet and confer to prepare a joint statement outlining a discovery plan and addressing topics required under Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.201(b)(1). This joint statement must be filed no later than 14 days prior to the case management conference.
The discovery phase is a critical part of the litigation process, allowing parties to gather information and materials relevant to their case. Discovery tools commonly used in Florida include interrogatories, requests for production, requests for entry upon land for inspection, requests for admission, depositions, and subpoenas. The length and scope of discovery will vary depending on the case, and it can require a significant investment of time and resources.
Post-Discovery Dispositive Motions
Once the discovery phase is complete, parties may have sufficient facts to support a motion for summary judgment. This motion can potentially resolve the case before trial by demonstrating that there are no genuine issues of material fact to be determined. The timing and appropriateness of a motion for summary judgment will depend on the specifics of the case.
Trial Preparation and Trial
Preparing for and conducting a civil trial is an intensive process that involves pre-trial motions, a pre-trial conference, coordination of witnesses, and preparation of trial exhibits. This stage of the litigation process can require a significant amount of time and effort, often exceeding 50 to 100 hours of work.
Settlement Negotiations and Alternative Dispute Resolution
Throughout the litigation process, parties may engage in settlement negotiations in an attempt to resolve the case without proceeding to trial. Settlement negotiations can take place at any stage of the process, and parties may choose to participate in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods, such as mediation or arbitration, to facilitate a settlement.
If a party is dissatisfied with the outcome of the trial, they have the right to appeal the decision to a higher court. The appeals process can be complex and time-consuming, involving the preparation of appellate briefs, oral arguments, and potentially further proceedings in the trial court if the appellate court remands the case for additional action.
Post-Judgment Enforcement and Collection
After a judgment has been entered, the prevailing party may need to take additional steps to enforce the judgment and collect the awarded damages. This can involve locating and identifying the debtor’s assets, obtaining writs of execution, and working with the sheriff’s office to seize and sell assets in order to satisfy the judgment. The process of enforcing and collecting on a judgment can be time-consuming and challenging, but it is a necessary step in achieving the desired outcome in a civil litigation case.
I have spent more than a decade practicing law in Florida, working on significant transactions and litigation matters. With each case, my appreciation for civil procedure and its importance in the litigation process has deepened. I understand the critical role that being well-prepared and knowledgeable about the legal process plays in achieving successful outcomes for my clients.
It is with this understanding and gratitude for my education at UF Law that I share this comprehensive guide to Florida civil procedure for defendants in complex cases. My hope is that this guide will help potential clients in Florida better comprehend the litigation process and the importance of securing experienced legal counsel as quickly as possible. The civil litigation process can be daunting, particularly for defendants in complex cases who may feel unprepared or overwhelmed. However, with a thorough understanding of the process and the support of skilled legal representation, defendants can navigate the complexities of civil litigation with confidence.