Rust v. Brown, — So.3d —-, 2009 WL 2031288 (Fla. 4th DCA Jul 15, 2009)

Symbol of law and justice in the empty courtroom, law and justice concept, blue tone

It’s not unusual for courts to enter orders simply “granting” a summary judgment motion. Which may be gratifying to the winning side, but technically speaking, the order is meaningless. Why? Because it hasn’t actually entered judgment for or against a party. Which means it’s a non-final, non-appealable order. Here’s how the 4th DCA explained the rule in Shroff v. Winn Dixie Stores, Inc., 570 So.2d 1135 (Fla. 4th DCA 1990):

With great reluctance, this appeal is dismissed on the authority of White Palms of Palm Beach v. Fox, 525 So.2d 518 (Fla. 4th DCA 1988), and Russell v. Russell, 507 So.2d 661 (Fla. 4th DCA 1987). Once again we caution trial judges and attorneys alike that this court lacks jurisdiction over an order granting a motion for summary judgment, when that order does not contain the requisite words of finality indicating that the complaint is dismissed.

Unfortunately, the parties (and the judge) in the linked-to probate case overlooked this bit of sage advice. Here again the 4th DCA was presented with an order that simply “granted” a summary judgment motion, and again the 4th DCA sent everyone packing with instructions to try to get it right the second time around:

The court entered an order granting the surviving spouse’s motion for summary judgment, giving rise to this appeal.

Rule 9.110(a)(2) of the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure provides for “review of orders entered in probate and guardianship matters that finally determine a right or obligation of an interested person as defined in the Florida Probate Code.” “Significantly, the committee note explains that the 1996 amendment to the rule ‘does not abrogate prior case law holding that a party’s right of appeal arises when there is a termination of judicial labor on the issue involved as to that party.'” Klingensmith v. Ferd & Gladys Alpert Jewish Family, 997 So.2d 436, 437 (Fla. 4th DCA 2008) (quoting Walters v. Edwards, 700 So.2d 434, 435 n. 1 (Fla. 4th DCA 1997)).

An order merely granting a motion for summary judgment is not a final order because it does not enter judgment for or against a party.White Palms of Palm Beach, Inc. v. Fox, 525 So.2d 518, 519 (Fla. 4th DCA 1988), abrogated on other grounds by Dobrick v. Discovery Cruises, Inc., 581 So.2d 645 (Fla. 4th DCA 1991).