Preserving Error Considerations for Motion Delays

The Importance of Properly Preserving Error for Appellate Review

In this installment, we delve into the preservation of error for denied motions for continuance and highlight the crucial steps to follow in order to secure a favorable outcome on appeal. Our team of appellate attorneys at Garrity Traina will guide you through the process, helping you navigate the complexities of this important legal issue.

Understanding Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.460

To ensure a smooth continuance process, it is essential to familiarize yourself with the provisions outlined in Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.460. This rule governs the procedure for seeking a continuance and lays out the requirements that must be met. According to this rule, a motion for continuance must be presented in writing, except when made during a trial, and must be signed by the requesting party. Additionally, the motion should comprehensively state all the relevant facts that support the need for a continuance. In cases where the unavailability of a witness is the basis for the motion, the motion should clearly indicate the expected availability of the witness.

Steps to Effectively Preserve Error for Denied Motions for Continuance

To ensure the preservation of error for a denied motion for continuance made before trial, it is crucial to renew the motion at the start of the trial. Failing to do so can result in the appellate court considering the issue waived. For instance, in the case of Betty’s Design Co. v. Estate of Evans, a defendant filed a motion for continuance citing poor health at the pretrial conference. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, and the defendant subsequently moved for a new trial, arguing that the denial of the pretrial motion for continuance was erroneous. However, the appellate court reversed the order granting a new trial because the defendant had failed to renew the motion when the trial proceeded. Thus, it is imperative that when the trial judge inquires if counsel is ready to proceed, counsel explicitly specifies that they are renewing the motion for continuance. Failure to do so may result in the waiver of the issue.

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If a motion for continuance based on late-disclosed evidence is denied, it is important to object to the admission of such evidence. Furthermore, in certain cases, the court may deny a motion for continuance but allow for the discovery of evidence. To preserve any arguments regarding the untimeliness of the discovery order, it is essential to object, highlighting the lateness of the order.

Understanding the Court’s Discretion in Ruling on a Motion for Continuance

While trial courts possess broad discretion in ruling on motions for continuance, this discretion is not infallible. The Florida Rules of Judicial Administration mandate that judges should apply a firm continuance policy, ensuring that continuances are granted sparingly and only when good cause is demonstrated. Consequently, it is relatively rare for a denial of a motion for continuance to be reversed on appeal. However, exceptions exist, such as when an insufficient time for trial preparation or the belated introduction of opposing evidence hampers a party’s ability to present their case effectively. Similarly, if a trial counsel falls ill and cannot physically attend the trial, the denial of a continuance may constitute an abuse of discretion.

Key Considerations in Different Scenarios

When reviewing an order denying a motion for continuance, courts assess several factors, including whether the denial resulted in injustice, whether the underlying cause for the motion was unforeseen, whether the motion was based on dilatory tactics, and whether the opposing party would suffer prejudice if the motion were granted. It is important to note that this list is not exhaustive. In cases where the unavailability of a witness is cited as a reason for the motion, the movant must demonstrate prior due diligence to secure the witness’s presence, the anticipated favorable testimony, the witness’s willingness to testify, and the material prejudice that would result from the denial.

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Adhering to the guidelines outlined in Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.460 is essential when seeking a continuance. A written motion for continuance is required for pretrial requests, and it must be renewed at the start of the trial to ensure preservation of error. If a motion is based on late-disclosed evidence, objecting at the time of admission and challenging the untimeliness of any discovery orders are crucial steps. By incorporating these considerations into your argument, you empower your appellate counsel to build a strong case, demonstrating an abuse of discretion.

For any inquiries or to refer a legal matter, please do not hesitate to reach out to our experienced appellate attorneys at Garrity Traina. We are here to provide guidance and support throughout the continuance process.