Recently, a Florida court of appeals issued an interesting opinion in a slip-and-fall case that has relevance for any personal injury plaintiff because it discusses how lower courts should handle plaintiffs’ expert testimony at summary judgment proceedings. The appellate court ultimately held that it is improper for a trial court to make a credibility determination when hearing a motion for summary judgment. Instead, the court should consider all of the presented evidence and only grant a defense motion for summary judgment if there is no issue of material fact.
In Florida, before a case is sent to trial before a jury, either party can move for summary judgment. Summary judgment is an opportunity for a party to have a judge enter a verdict in their favor based on the pleadings alone. In a defense motion for summary judgment, a judge will consider the plaintiff’s allegations as true and then determine if the plaintiff would be entitled to relief. If so, the defense motion for summary judgment is denied. However, if, even after considering all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the plaintiff’s claim is insufficient, the motion will be granted.