A motion for summary judgment is a procedural device that allows the courts to quickly and efficiently dispose of cases that do not need to be tried. Either the plaintiff or defendant can make a motion for summary judgment. To succeed on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party must prove that there is no genuine dispute about any of the material facts of the case. If the moving party can meet the summary judgment standard, the court will enter a judgment in favor of the moving party as a matter of law.
Check the statute of limitations. If the plaintiff is the party moving for summary judgment, she only has 20 days after filing the lawsuit to do so. The defendant can move for summary judgment at any time. If the plaintiff does not make the motion in time, her claim is automatically defeated.
Gather and submit evidence. To oppose a motion for summary judgment the non-moving party should gather evidence that proves there are disputes about material facts of the case. For example, in a contract dispute the plaintiff may claim that there is no dispute that the contract is valid. To defeat a motion for summary judgment, the defendant could enter evidence that the contract was induced by fraud and is therefore invalid.
Meet the burden of proof. To defeat a motion for summary judgment, it is not necessary to prove that you would win a dispute on any issue of material fact. All you have to prove is that there is a dispute about a genuine issue of material fact. Summary judgment hearings are not mini-trials that decide the issues; they are proceedings to determine if a dispute actually exists.
Appeal the summary judgment. Although denials of summary judgment motions generally are not appealable, you can appeal a court's decision to grant the opposing party's motion for summary judgment. The appellate court will apply the same summary judgment standard as the trial court.
- This article deals with summary judgment in federal courts. State courts generally apply the same summary judgment standard, but may have different procedural processes. Check with your state's rules of civil procedure for your state's rules.
- A party may also move for partial summary judgment. In that case, the court can decide that there is no dispute about certain material facts and that dispute still exists for other facts. If the court grants the motion for partial summary judgment, there will still be a trial concerning the disputed issues.
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