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What is a summary judgment?

January 25, 2017

A summary judgment is a decision made based on statements and evidence without going to trial. It’s a final decision by a judge and is designed to resolve a lawsuit before going to court. One party in a case is entitled to judgment by the law, and summary judgment is used in cases where there’s no dispute about the facts of a case.

How is Summary Judgment Granted?

Summary judgment is granted when there are no other facts to be tried. All of the necessary statements and evidence are already in front of the judge and there’s no way to obtain more information.

Summary judgment is granted when the facts can be decided upon without needing to go to trial, where the opposing party would lose due to a lack of evidence. If it’s not clear that there is no more evidence, then summary judgment must be denied.

Who Can Move to Summary Judgment?

Either one of the parties in a case can move toward summary judgment, whether they’re the defendant or the plaintiff (although in personal injury cases, the defendant is more likely to move). All that matters is the evidence that is presented.

If the defendant moves to summary judgment, the burden of proof moves from the plaintiff to the defendant. Rather than the plaintiff proving that he or she was injured, the defendant must prove that the plaintiff can’t obtain evidence at all.

What Evidence Can Be Used?

Any evidence that can be used in a courtroom trial can also be used in summary judgment. For example:

  • Photographs
  • Signed witness statements
  • Police reports
  • Medical records

A personal injury attorney will be able to help you figure out what you need for your case.

What Does the Summary Judgment Process Look Like?

  1. The moving party has to move to summary judgment. The motion to summary judgment must be assigned a hearing date and the parties must be notified.
  2. At summary judgment, the moving party files and serves a Memorandum of Points and Authorities, which is their legal grounds for the motion.
  3. They make their case that there are no triable issues of fact—and even if there were, there would be no way that the case would win in court. The other party is allowed to respond, which involves showing that there is, in fact, triable evidence, more than one version of the facts, or that the judgment would be premature.
  4. Once the cases are made, the judge reviews them and makes a decision.
  5. When a motion is granted, the case against the moving party ends; if the motion is denied and no settlement is reached, the next step is often the courtroom.

The case will most likely end up resolved in the moving party’s favor if the other party doesn’t respond or the response is insufficient.

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