Florida Supreme Court Adopts Amendments to Mediation Procedures, Rule 1.720
The Florida Supreme Court has recently adopted amendments to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.720, which governs mediation procedures. The amendments become effective on January 1, 2012.
Under the new rule, a party is deemed to appear at a mediation conference if the following persons are physically present:
(1) The party or a party representative having full authority to settle without further consultation; and
(2) The party’s counsel of record, if any; and
(3) A representative of the insurance carrier for any insured party who is not such carrier’s outside counsel and who has full authority to settle in an amount up to the amount of the plaintiff’s last demand or policy limits, whichever is less, without further consultation.
Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.720(b) (emphasis added).
In addition, unless otherwise stipulated by the parties, each party, 10 days prior to appearing at a mediation conference, must file with the court and serve on all parties a written notice (i.e., a “Certification of Authority”) identifying the person or persons who will be attending the mediation conference as a party representative or as an insurance carrier representative, and confirming that those persons have full authority to settle as outlined above. Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.720(e).
Finally, if a party fails to appear at a duly notice mediation conference without good cause, the court, upon motion, shall impose sanctions, including award of mediation fees, attorneys’ fees, and costs, against the party failing to appear. Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.720(f) (emphasis added). Importantly, the failure to file a Certification of Authority, or failure of the persons identified in the Certification of Authority to appear at the mediation conference, will create a rebuttable presumption of a failure to appear. Id.