As of September 1, 2012, service by e-mail of pleadings and other court documents is mandatory in Florida state court civil cases.Every pleading subsequent to the initial pleading and every other document filed in any court proceeding must be served on each party in accordance with these new rules, which are summarized below. The decision implementing these changes can be found here [pdf].

  1. Designation of Email Addresses – At the outset of any new action, or by Sept. 1, 2012 for any pending action, all parties must file a designation of a primary email address, and up to two secondary email addresses (this can be other attorneys on the file, secretaries, paralegals, etc.), for service of all court documents. See Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.516(b)(1)(A).
  2. Signature Block – ALL signature blocks should now also contain the attorney’s primary email address. See Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.516(b)(1)(A).
  3. Signing Court Documents – Documents served on other parties by email may be signed electronically (with an “/s/”). However, the original document filed with the clerk must still be physically signed by the attorney. See Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.516(b)(1)(E)(iii).
  4. Time Computation – Although service is complete upon sending the email, the rule specifically provides that for purposes of time computation, email service shall be treated as service by U.S. Mail. This provides the additional 5 days for service when computing deadlines. It appears that the only way to cut off the 5-day addition is to additionally serve by hand delivery or fax. See Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.516(b)(1)(D)(iii).
  5. Filing – The Florida Supreme Court has also issued a new rule regarding e-filing, but this does not take effect until April 2013. For now, filing shall be as usual, but the e-service rule requires that filing be made either before service or immediately thereafter. See Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.516(d).
  6. Return Error Message – If you receive a server response that the email was not delivered, you must immediately send another copy by email, or by U.S. Mail, fax or hand delivery. See Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.516(b)(1)(D)(ii).
  7. Unusual Number of Parties – The rule provides an exception for cases with an unusually large number of parties. In such actions, the court may modify the service requirements of this rule on motion or on its own initiative in such a manner as may be found to be “just and reasonable.” See Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.516(c).
  8. Non-Compliance – If an attorney does not file a designation of email addresses for service, service may still be made by email at the email address on record for that attorney with the Florida Bar. The Florida Bar has released a guide suggesting that if a party fails to serve documents by email after September 1, 2012, good practice should be to call the attorney and direct them to the new rule. 
  9. E-Mail Format – The rule contains strict guidelines for the format of the email in which the document is served: Subject Line – The email subject must begin with: “SERVICE OF COURT DOCUMENT CASE NO. xx-xxxxx.” All caps are required. To: all primary and secondary emails as designated by each attorney of record. Body of Email – The body of the email must contain: 1) the court in which the case in pending; 2) the case number; 3) the name of each initial party on each side of the case; 4) the title of each document being served (more than one may be served in one email); and 5) the sender’s name and telephone number.
  10. Attachments – The document being served must be attached in PDF format. The email and the attachment combined may NOT exceed 5 MB. Where the document exceeds 5 MB, it must be split up into separate files smaller than 5 MB, and sent in multiple emails, labeled sequentially in the subject line. The subject line of the string of emails should look like this: Subject: SERVICE OF COURT DOCUMENT CASE NO: xx-xxxxx (1 of 4)