summary judgment

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Summary Judgment

A procedural device used during civil litigation to promptly and expeditiously dispose of a case without a trial. It is used when there is no dispute as to the material facts of the case and a party is entitled to judgment as a Matter of Law.

Any party may move for summary judgment; it is not uncommon for both parties to seek it. A judge may also determine on her own initiative that summary judgment is appropriate. Unlike with pretrial motions to dismiss, information such as affidavits, interrogatories, depositions, and admissions may be considered on a motion for summary judgment. Any evidence that would be admissible at trial under the rules of evidence may support a motion for summary judgment. Usually a court will hold oral arguments on a summary judgment motion, although it may decide the motion on the parties' briefs and supporting documentation alone.

The purpose of summary judgment is to avoid unnecessary trials. It may also simplify a trial, as when partial summary judgment dispenses with certain issues or claims. For example, a court might grant partial summary judgment in a personal injury case on the issue of liability. A trial would still be necessary to determine the amount of damages.

Two criteria must be met before summary judgment may be properly granted: (1) there must be no genuine issues of material fact, and (2) the Movant must be entitled to judgment as a matter of law. A genuine issue implies that certain facts are disputed. Usually a party opposing summary judgment must introduce evidence that contradicts the moving party's version of the facts. Moreover, the facts in dispute must be central to the case; irrelevant or minor factual disputes will not defeat a motion for summary judgment. Finally, the law as applied to the undisputed facts of the case must mandate judgment for the moving party. Summary judgment does not mean that a judge decides which side would prevail at trial, nor does a judge determine the credibility of witnesses. Rather, it is used when no factual questions exist for a judge or jury to decide.

The moving party has the initial burden to show that summary judgment is proper even if the moving party would not have the Burden of Proof at trial. The court generally examines the evidence presented with the motion in the light most favorable to the opposing party. Where the opposing party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may obtain summary judgment by showing that the opposing party has no evidence or that its evidence is insufficient to meet its burden at trial.

Jurisdictions vary in their requirements for opposing a summary judgment motion. Federal rule of civil procedure 56 governs the applicability of summary judgment in federal proceedings, and each state has its own rules. In some states it is sufficient if the party opposing the motion merely calls the court's attention to inconsistencies in the pleadings and the movant's evidence without introducing further evidence. This approach rarely results in a court's granting summary judgment. On the other hand, other jurisdictions, including federal courts, do not permit a party opposing summary judgment to rest on the pleadings alone. Once the movant has met the initial burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the burden shifts to the opposing party to introduce evidence to contradict the movant's allegations.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

summary judgment

n. a court order ruling that no factual issues remain to be tried and therefore a cause of action or all causes of action in a complaint can be decided upon certain facts without trial. A summary judgment is based upon a motion by one of the parties that contends that all necessary factual issues are settled, and therefore need not be tried. The motion is supported by declarations under oath, excerpts from depositions which are under oath, admissions of fact, and other discovery, as well as a legal argument (points and authorities), that argue that there are no triable issues of fact and that the settled facts require a summary judgment for the moving party. The opposing party will respond by counter-declarations and legal arguments attempting to show that there are "triable issues of fact." If it is unclear whether there is a triable issue of fact in any cause of action, then summary judgment must be denied as to that cause of action. The theory behind the summary judgment process is cut down on unnecessary litigation by eliminating without trial one or more causes of action in the complaint. The pleading procedures are extremely technical and complicated, and are particularly dangerous to the party against whom the motion is made. (See: summary adjudication of issues, cause of action)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.

summary judgment

a judgment in a SUMMARY CAUSE.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006
References in periodicals archive ?
2000) (describing moving party's obligation to show non-moving party cannot carry its burden at trial); McLaughlin v.
require the non-moving party to file its opposition to the motion fourteen days before, and the moving party's reply seven days before, the date of the hearing on the motion.").
The court explained that the conjunction of former Rule 56(c) and former Rule 6(d) assured the non-moving party ten days to respond before the court takes the motion under advisement.
2000) ("Summary judgment is proper if after viewing all the evidence, including supplemental affidavits, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the Court finds no genuine issue exists." (emphasis added) (citation omitted)).
2, 2000) ("[I]t is a complete waste of time for the moving party to come forward with conflicting evidence in an effort to 'dispute' the non-moving party's factual assertions.").
[D]isputed issues of fact are not material if the moving party would be entitled to judgment as a matter of law even if the disputed issues were resolved in favor of the non-moving party. Such factual disputes, however genuine, are not material, and their presence will not preclude summary judgment.
2008) (explaining court "must credit the non-moving party's evidence over that presented by the moving party."); Owsiak v.
1992) ("[W]here the non-moving party's evidence contradicts the movant's, then the non-movant's must be taken as true."); Erickson v.
Courts must view the evidence in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party.
The court held, inter alia, that once a moving party has met the initial burden by supporting its position with documentary evidence, as the defendant did in this case, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to establish the existence of a genuine issue of fact.
The court held, inter alia, that before summary judgment may be granted, it must be determined that (1) there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, (2) the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, and (3) it appears from the evidence that reasonable minds can come to but one conclusion, and viewing such evidence in a light favoring the non-moving party, that conclusion is adverse to the party against whom the motion for summary judgment is made.

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