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Florida Business, Whistleblower, & Securities Lawyers / Blog / Business Litigation / “I Feel the Need for Speed!” – the Florida Supreme Court Abrogates the “At Issue” Rule and Declares Trial Continuances Should Rarely be Granted

“I Feel the Need for Speed!” – the Florida Supreme Court Abrogates the “At Issue” Rule and Declares Trial Continuances Should Rarely be Granted


The Florida Supreme Court recently adopted various new amendments to the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure that become effective on January 1, 2025. These amendments overhaul how trial courts will manage the cases before them, the speed in which cases will proceed through the judicial process, and material changes to the discovery process, including new duties imposed upon the parties and new standards for evaluating discovery disputes. This blog post, however, focuses only on the amendments that bear on setting a case for trial (Rule 1.440 – Setting Action for Trial) and the requirements for obtaining a continuance once a case is set for trial (Rule 1.460 – Motions to Continue Trial).

The amendments to Rule 1.440 present one of the most significant changes to Florida civil procedure. For decades, the Florida rules have been an outlier when it comes to setting a case for trial, because the rule required a trial court to strike a case from the trial docket once the case was no longer “at issue” after a party filed an amended pleading. Thus, the import of the amendment to Rule 1.440 is the antiquated “at issue” rule will obsolete as of January 1, 2025.

For years, plaintiffs and defendants alike have abused the mandatory nature of Rule 1.440 by moving for leave to amend a pleading years after the filing of the complaint with a primary or partial purpose of getting the case removed from a trial docket. Under the pre-amendment version of Rule 1.440, if a trial court granted a motion for leave to file an amended pleading—because of the liberal policy favoring pleading amendments—the trial court would then need to strike the trial date. When this occurred, the ability to set a new trial date often would be delayed for 6 months or more, because the trial court was not permitted to reset the trial date until after it had ruled upon all motions directed to the pleadings and the last pleading was filed.

The abrogation of the “at issue” rule aligns Florida with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, including the longstanding policy in federal court that once a district court enters a scheduling order setting a trial date, the trial date is set in stone irrespective of any amendments to the pleadings. Going forward under the Florida rules, 30 days’ notice of a new trial date is sufficient notice of trial irrespective of whether a party files an amended pleading after the trial court sets the trial date.

Other major amendments to the Florida rules that bear on trial settings are the amendments to Rule 1.460, which governs continuances of trial. In amended Rule 1.460, the Florida Supreme Court’s intentions are clear. Going forward, continuances of trial “are disfavored” and “should rarely be granted.” Thus, there is little ambiguity that the Supreme Court is telling trial courts statewide to avoid delays and expeditiously move cases through the system.

Amended Rule 1.460 also prescribes that a motion to continue trial must be in writing, signed by the client, and filed promptly once good cause arises. A motion to continue trial must also state the need for a continuance, whether the motion is unopposed or opposed, and the actions and dates that will allow the moving party to be ready for trial.

Finally, when a trial court rules on a motion to continue trial, amended Rule 1.460 also requires the trial court to state the factual basis for the court’s ruling on the record or in a written order, and the trial court must provide a new trial date or set a case management conference.

In sum, the amendments to the Florida rules are game changers when it comes to setting cases for trial and disfavoring continuances of trial once a trial date is set. These changes undoubtedly will impose increased pressure on attorneys and parties to accelerate discovery, get discovery disputes resolved as they arise, to hire experts early on in a case, and to have a plan for filing motions for summary judgment.

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