Attorney Steve® Litigation Tips - Summary Judgment Explained
One way a case (lawsuit) may end is via a summary judgment motion, whether for the Plaintiff or the Defendant. But what it is and how does it work?
Summary Judgment Motion - Burdens of Proof
Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The moving party has the initial burden of identifying the portions of the pleadings and record that it believes demonstrate the absence of an issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If a moving party can prove there is no issue of material fact, the Court may grant the motion, in whole or in part, and the case may end there.
Where the non-moving party bears the burden of proof at trial, the moving party need not produce evidence negating or disproving every essential element of the nonmoving party's case. Id. at 325. Instead, the moving party need only prove there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. Id.; In re Oracle Corp. Sec. Litig., 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th Cir. 2010). The moving party must show that “under the governing law, there can be but one reasonable conclusion as to the verdict.” See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986).
If the moving party has sustained its burden, the non-moving party must then show that there is a genuine issue of material fact that must be resolved at trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. The non-moving party must make an affirmative showing on all matters placed at issue by the motion as to which it has the burden of proof at trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322; Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. A genuine issue of material fact exists “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
“This burden is not a light one. The non-moving party must show more than the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence.” In re Oracle, 627 F.3d at 387 (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252).
When deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court construes the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Barlow v. Ground, 943 F.2d 1132, 1135 (9th Cir. 1991).
Thus, summary judgment for the moving party is proper when a “rational trier of fact” would not be able to find for the non-moving party based on the record taken as a whole. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).
Watch Attorney Steve® Explain Motion for Summary Judgment
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