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Florida Business Legal Alert – Massive Change to Jurisdiction for County and Circuit Courts

If a business were to sue or be sued in Florida, typically the lawsuit would be filed in Circuit Court. That will change effective January 1, 2020.

Last week Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a sweeping change to Florida’s legal landscape. How?

When filing a civil lawsuit, the amount in controversy is a factor that determines the court the case is filed: Small Claims, County Court, or Circuit Court. Each court (Small Claims, County, and Circuit) have different judges, some elected and some appointed.

Currently, if the amount in controversy exceeds $15,000.00 (exclusive of interest, costs, and attorney fees), the case is filed in Circuit Court. If the amount in controversy does not exceed $15,000.00, the case is filed in County Court. This low threshold is the reason why most lawsuits that involve businesses are filed in Circuit Court. As a result, businesses have a longstanding history with Circuit Court judges, providing some level of predictability when a case was assigned to a particular judge.

However, under the new law, starting January 1, 2020, the amount in controversy threshold doubles to $30,000.00 (exclusive of interest, costs, and attorney fees). Then, starting January 1, 2023, the amount in controversy goes up to $50,000.00.

The impact of this law will be significant, particularly during the transition period. The likelihood that a company will find itself in County Court, as opposed to Circuit Court, will exponentially increase. It is advisable for businesses and their counsel to become familiar with County Court judges, something that may not have been a focus in the past, particularly during the transition from the old threshold to new.

If you would like additional information about this legal alert, feel free to contact Dunlap & Shipman at your convenience.

Written by: Dixie Daimwood, Partner at Dunlap & Shipman’s

Tallahassee, Florida office location

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