What Is Summary Judgment?

Locate a Local Personal Injury Lawyer

Find Lawyers in Other Categories
Most Common Personal Injury Law Issues:

What Is Summary Judgment?

Summary judgment is judgment entered by the judge in a civil case for a party when that party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

Summary judgment may be partial or whole. In addition, summary judgment may be dispositive.

Partial summary judgment is summary judgment for only some of the claims or only some of the elements of a claim. For instance, with a plaintiff’s motion, a judge may order that the defendant is indeed liable but that the plaintiff must still prove the damages to the jury.

Whole summary judgment ends the case. For instance, a judge may grant the defendant's motion for summary judgment, which in turn dismisses the case.

Motion for Summary Judgment

A motion for summary judgment is usually filed after discovery is conducted. Discovery involves conducting depositions of witnesses, drafting witness affidavits, investigating and collecting evidence, examining medical records, and more. The moving party may rely on any testimony or evidence from discovery in fashioning their motion for summary judgment.

Arguing a Motion for Summary Judgment

In their motion for summary judgment, the moving party must assert legal grounds to show it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Generally the moving party will cite case law or a statute that highlights when the moving party is entitled to summary judgment. Then the moving party will apply the facts of the case to the law to show that summary judgment is proper in this scenario.

When the motion is filed, the judge must then decide on the merits of the motion. If the motion succeeds in laying a foundation for entitlement to judgment, then the moving party has set forth what is known as a prima facie entitlement to summary judgment. The judge will then order the non-moving party to respond. If the motion does not lay a successful foundation, however, the motion will be denied, and the case will proceed to trial.

In the opposition, the non-moving party must show that there is a triable issue of fact. The non-moving party may show the moving party is not entitled to summary judgment under the law or may show that there is a separate triable issue of fact than what was discussed in the motion. If the judge agrees that there is a genuine dispute of material fact, the judge is unable to weigh the evidence to decide this dispute. Only a jury, in its role as the fact-finder, can do this. Thus the motion for summary judgment will be denied, and the case will proceed to trial.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Make a Summary Judgment Motion?

Motions for summary judgment are pretrial motions, meaning that they are made before a trial has begun. Even though they precede an actual trial, these motions still involve incredibly complex arguments that require understanding case law, statutes, the rules of evidence, and court procedure. A personal injury lawyer can help you navigate the summary judgment process, including formulating arguments and drafting the motion for summary judgment.

Consult a Lawyer - Present Your Case Now!
Last Modified: 05-13-2015 09:30 AM PDT

Find the Right Lawyer Now

Link to this page

Law Library Disclaimer

LegalMatch Service Mark