Nine asbestos-litigation plaintiffs appeal the trial court's order dismissing their actions, without prejudice, for failure to serve the defendants within 120 days subsequent to the filing of their complaints. These nine asbestos-litigation complaints were filed between January of 1987 and March of 1988. The defendants remained unserved until August and September of 1989. On September 25, 1989, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to effect timely service pursuant to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.070(j). Only one defendant, "Flintkote", was still unserved at the time the motion was filed. In its December 8, 1989 Order, the trial court dismissed all nine actions, without prejudice, for the plaintiffs' failure to comply with Rule 1.070(j). For the following reasons,
Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.070(j), as amended, states:
The effective date of Rule 1.070(j) was January 1, 1989. All nine of the actions in this case were pending at the time this amended rule took effect. The plaintiffs below urge that Rule 1.070(j) is not applicable to these actions because Rules of Court are to be applied prospectively, absent an express wording of an intention to the contrary. Their argument would suggest that cases already pending at the effective date of an amended rule would not be subject to its requirements.
The defendants below argue that Rule 1.070(j) is applicable to the nine cases while still affording a prospective treatment. They urge this court that the plaintiffs were bound by the 120-day period which would run from the effective date of the Rule, and are subject to dismissals for failure to comply with this time period.
Although we agree with the defendants that the plaintiffs were limited to 120 days, from the effective date of the Rule, within which to serve the defendants, it was improper for the trial court to dismiss eight of the nine actions.
We hold that the operation of Rule 1.070(j) is analogous to the application of Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.500(c)
Affirmed in part and reversed in part.