December 12, 2018

Motion for Summary Judgment

In a personal injury, defendants often defend with a motion for summary judgment. What is a motion for summary judgment?

The motion for summary judgment usually comes after discovery completion. In a motion for summary judgment, the defendant is asking the court to settle all issues presented in the plaintiff’s complaint, rather than have the case go to trial for a jury to decide the facts. If the defendant wins the motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff gets nothing.

The purpose of summary judgments is to expedite litigation by avoiding needless trials. The motion is to establish whether or not a lawsuit contains triable issues of fact; if it does not, summary judgment should be awarded. The jury exists to decide on the facts. If there are no disputes in facts, the case can be decided by the court. Summary judgment is proper to eliminate sham and baseless claims and pleadings.

For example, a plaintiff alleges that: Defendant participated in negligently managing, maintaining, supervising, overseeing, controlling, and contructing the premises in which the incident occurred. The negligent actions include: (1) An improperly installed and anchored safety rail situated on the staircase in which the incident occurred; (2) A leaving of boards and plankings adjacent to the stairway in which the incident occurred. If plaintiff has not presented any material facts to prove that defendant participated in the negligent actions and thus, owed plaintiff a legal duty, the court should grant the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

An action in negligence requires that a defendant owed a plaintiff a legal duty, that the defendant breached the duty, and that the breach was a proximate or legal cause of the injuries plaintiff suffered. For example, plaintiff alleges defendant contributed to his injuries by leaving boards and plankings adjacent to the stairwell in which the incident which is the subject of this litigation occurred. Yet, defendant does not have any records of being at the premises, where plaintiff allegedly sustained his injuries. Then, defendant is an incorrect party to this litigation, and did not participate in the negligence actions that plaintiff alleges. Because defendant is an incorrect party, and was not involved in the negligence actions that is the subject of the litigation, defendant does not owe plaintiff a legal duty for the injuries he alleges. No triable issues of material facts exist with respect to plaintiff’s personal injury action. The court would grant defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

If a plaintiff loses in a motion for summary judgment, the next step is to appeal the case.

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