Legal book and document with scales of justice and gavel

Chaos was unleashed in an otherwise unremarkable case when a poorly-written order granting partial summary judgment also included language improperly suggested that the order was a final judgment.

In Surijon v. Zarria (Fla. 3d DCA Sept. 4, 2019), Plaintiff filed a five count complaint against a defendant all arising from the same set of facts. Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment addressing only three of the five counts. The trial court’s order reflects that the trial court granted summary judgment as to one count only, and denied summary judgment as to the other two counts raised in the motion. The remaining two counts were not addressed in the summary judgment motion, and were never disposed of by any other order. Thus, the substance of the trial court’s rulings strongly suggests that the court granted partial summary judgment as to one count only.

However, the summary judgment order was titled “Summary Final Judgment.” The order further states that Plaintiff was entitled to recover $150,000 from Defendant, plus attorney’s fees and prejudgment interest. The order also contained boilerplate language of judgment finality: “for all of which let execution issue.” The result of this inconsistently-worded order was to enter final judgment against Defendant, and close the case on all counts.

The Third DCA reversed, directing the clerk to reopen the case, and directing the trial court to enter an interlocutory order granting summary judgment on the one intended count, without words of execution, and to retain jurisdiction to consider the pending related claims.

This case illustrates the importance of careful wording on all court orders. It’s not clear in this case whether the order was written in such a confusing matter because it was based on an improperly-adapted form, or if Plaintiff had intended to take final judgment by dismissing the remaining claims.