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In re Amendments to Florida Small Claims Rules - 2019 Regular Cycle Report

Supreme Court of Florida

December 12, 2019

IN RE: AMENDMENTS TO THE FLORIDA SMALL CLAIMS RULES - 2019 REGULAR CYCLE REPORT.

          Original Proceeding - Florida Rules of Small Claims

          Christina M. Magee, Chair, Small Claims Rules Committee, Satellite Beach, Florida; and Joshua E. Doyle, Executive Director, and Heather Savage Telfer, Staff Liaison, The Florida Bar, Tallahassee, Florida, for Petitioner.

          Courtney Rebecca Brewer, Chair, Appellate Court Rules Committee, Tallahassee, Florida; and Aniko Kallai, Weeki Wachee, Florida, Responding with comments.

          PER CURIAM.

         This matter is before the Court for consideration of proposed amendments to the Florida Small Claims Rules. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 2(a), Fla. Const.

         BACKGROUND

         The Florida Bar's Small Claims Rules Committee (Committee) has filed its regular-cycle report proposing amendments to the Florida Small Claims Rules (Small Claims Rules). See Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.140(b). The Committee proposes amending the following rules and forms: rules 7.020 (Applicability of Rules of Civil Procedure); 7.040 (Clerical and Administrative Duties of Clerk); 7.050 (Commencement of Action; Statement of Claim); 7.060 (Process and Venue); 7.080 (Service and Filing of Pleadings and Documents Other than Statement of Claim); 7.090 (Appearance; Defensive Pleadings; Trial Date); 7.100 (Counterclaims, Setoffs, Third-Party Complaints, Transfer when Jurisdiction Exceeded); 7.130 (Continuances and Settlements); 7.150 (Jury Trials); 7.160 (Failure of Plaintiff or Both Parties to Appear); 7.175 (Motions for Costs and Attorneys' Fees); 7.180 (Motions for New Trial; Time For; Contents); 7.190 (Relief from Judgment or Order; Clerical Mistakes); 7.200 (Executions); 7.221 (Hearing in Aid of Execution); and 7.230 (Appellate Review); and forms 7.322 (Summons/Notice to Appear for Pretrial Conference); 7.323 (Pretrial Conference Order and Notice of Trial); 7.330 (Statement of Claim (Auto Negligence)); 7.331 (Statement of Claim (For Goods Sold)); 7.332 (Statement of Claim (For Work Done and Materials Furnished)); 7.333 (Statement of Claim (For Money Lent)); 7.334 (Statement of Claim (Promissory Note)); 7.335 (Statement of Claim (For Return of Stolen Property from Pawnbroker)); 7.342 (Ex Parte Motion and Order for Hearing in Aid of Execution), 7.343 (Fact Information Sheet); and 7.345 (Stipulation for Installment Settlement, Order Approving Stipulation, and Dismissal). The Committee also proposes new forms 7.315 (Designation of E-mail Address for Party Not Represented by an Attorney); 7.316 (Change of Address); 7.337 (Statement of Claim (Account Stated)); 7.351 (Format for Defendant's Motion); 7.352 (Defendant's Motion to Continue); and 7.353 (Defendant's Motion to Invoke the Rules of Civil Procedure).

         Prior to filing its report with the Court, the Committee published its proposals in The Florida Bar News pursuant to Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.140(b). One comment was filed, resulting in a revision to Form 7.343. Following the filing of the report and the Court's publication of the proposals, comments were filed by Aniko Kallai and the Appellate Court Rules Committee (ACRC) pertaining to the Committee's proposed amendment to Small Claims Rule 7.050(a)(2).

         After reviewing the Committee's proposals and considering the comments filed, we adopt the Committee's amendments as proposed, with two exceptions: (1) we have revised the Committee's proposals to amend rules 7.050 (Commencement of Action; Statement of Claim) and 7.230 (Appellate Review); and (2) we decline to adopt the Committee's proposal to renumber rule 7.175 (Motions for Costs and Attorneys' Fees). We discuss the more significant rule amendments below.

         AMENDMENTS

         First, several amendments are made to rule 7.050 (Commencement of Action; Statement of Claim). The most significant of these is the amendment to subdivision (a)(2), which adds language warning pro se litigants that while it is appropriate for a non-attorney to represent a business entity in small claims court, that same individual cannot represent a business entity on appeal. The amendment is made to highlight to pro se litigants that while it is appropriate for a non-attorney to represent a business entity in small claims court, the same person cannot represent a business entity in appellate proceedings.

         The Court received one comment by Aniko Kallai in opposition to the Committee's proposed amendment to 7.050(a)(2) and one comment by the ACRC in favor of the proposed amendment. After consideration of the comments, we find that the Committee's proposal is a sensible notification to pro se litigants. Accordingly, we amend rule 7.050 to add a new sentence to subdivision (a)(2) to warn litigants that while it is appropriate for a non-attorney to represent a business entity in small claims court, a pro se litigant cannot represent a business entity in an appellate proceeding. However, we modify the language as proposed by the Committee to remove the reference to the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure. Similarly, we amend rule 7.230 to add the same warning to pro se litigants as we add to rule 7.050(a)(2). We do this by creating new subdivision (b), entitled "Party Not Represented by an Attorney," and adding the same text to new subdivision (b) that we add to 7.050(a)(2).

         Next, several changes are made to rule 7.100 (Counterclaims, Setoffs, Third-Party Complaints, Transfer When Jurisdiction Exceeded). The most significant of these is the amendment to incorporate "setoffs" into subdivision (a). Specifically, we replace "[a]ny claim of the defendant against the plaintiff, arising out of the" with "[i]f a defendant has a claim or setoff against a plaintiff that arises out of the" before "same transaction or occurrence." In the same sentence, we ...


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