4th DCA Ruling re: proper e-service of pleadings
Thank you to Belinda Martinez for this info:
Wednesday, the Fourth District Court of Appeal issued what may be Florida’s first appellate court decision addressing what constitutes proper e-service of pleadings in Matte v. Caplan, Case No. 4D 13– 903 (FLW4th DCA June 11, 2014).
In the context a trial court’s denial of a motion for §57.105 sanctions, the adequacy of e-service was addressed. The email serving the motion for sanctions included in its subject line a short caption and the name of a motion. The body of the email stated “see attached motion” and attached a WORD document.
The Appellate Court first noted that Fla.R.Civ.P. Rule 1.080(a), requires that after the initial pleading “every other document filed in the action must be served in conformity with the requirements of Rule of Judicial Administration 2.516.” Emphasizing the word “must,” the appellate court noted that Fla.R.Jud.Admin. Rule 2.516(b)(1) specifies the format for email notice including: the caption must have “SERVICE COURT DOCUMENT” followed by the case number; the body of the email must identify the short caption with other information; and, the pleading attached must be in a PDF format, or be available by a link to a Clerk’s website.
Strictly construing pleading statutes in the context of a motion for sanctions, the Court held that the motion was not served pursuant to the Rules of Civil Procedure; thus, the email service was invalid and could not provide a basis for sanctions.
The moral for the litigating attorney is to carefully comply with rules of civil procedure the first time. While this decision is based on a sanctions motion subject to strict construction of its statutory basis, the decision may be relied upon especially if there is no other way to deny a motion!