Abuse of Discretion Standard Cases In Florida
Appellant argues in his motion for rehearing that the gross abuse of discretion standard of review which we applied should only be used in reviewing an order granting a motion to vacate a default judgment.
He contends that an order denying a motion to vacate a default judgment is reviewed under the less stringent abuse of discretion standard.
There are cases which so hold. See, e.g., Marshall Davis, Inc. v. Incapco, Inc., 558 So. 2d 206 (Fla. 2d DCA 1990); Finkel Outdoor Prods., Inc. v. Lasky, 529 So. 2d 317 (Fla. 2d DCA 1988).
We used gross abuse of discretion because that is what the Florida Supreme Court held the standard to be in North Shore Hospital, Inc. v. Barber, 143 So. 2d 849 (Fla. 1962), the landmark case on setting aside default judgments.
Although North Shore involved review of an order granting a motion to vacate, the North Shore court relied on Benedict v. W.T. Hadlow Co., 52 Fla. 188, 42 So. 239 (Fla. 1906), in which the trial court denied a motion to vacate and the standard of review applied was gross abuse of discretion.
We agree with appellant that "a greater showing is required to reverse an order granting a motion to vacate a default than is required to reverse a denial of such a motion." McKinzie v. Hollywood, 421 So. 2d 606, 607 (Fla. 4th DCA 1982); See B.C. Builders Supply Co. v. Maldonado, 405 So. 2d 1345 (Fla. 3d DCA 1981); Marshall Davis, Inc. v. Incapco, Inc., 558 So. 2d 206 (Fla. 2d DCA 1990); Allstate Ins. Co. v. Ladner, 740 So. 2d 42 (Fla. 1st DCA 1999).
That principle, although not articulated in North Shore, is consistent with Florida's liberal policy in favor of vacating defaults so that controversies can be decided on the merits. North Shore, 143 So. 2d at 852, 853.
Given that policy, it makes sense to use abuse of discretion, not gross abuse, as the standard of review, when the trial court has denied a motion to vacate. Applying that standard in this case does not change the result. We therefore deny the motion for rehearing.