There are many tools available to lawyers during the course of a lawsuit to prosecute or defend their clients’ cases. One of those tools is the summary judgment motion. In most cases, preparing and arguing a motion for summary judgment requires many hours of legal work. The time and expense required in order to present this type of motion can be substantial, and you should discuss the potential costs and benefits with your attorney.
When a summary judgment motion is filed, one of the parties to the lawsuit (usually the defendant) asks the court to dismiss the case because there’s no dispute over any material fact that needs to go to the jury for decision. In other words, the case can be resolved on legal grounds by the judge alone. Summary judgment is not feasible in all cases, but the personal injury lawyer Memphis, TN knows to get favorable results will be able to advise you concerning your chances of prevailing.
Standard for Prevailing on Summary Judgment
In federal court, and in many states, a defendant can prevail on a motion for summary judgment by simply pointing out that a plaintiff has insufficient evidence to support his claims, even if the court were to assume that all of that evidence was viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. In order to survive the motion and keep the lawsuit alive, the plaintiff has to come forward and identify relevant evidence showing that an actual trial is, in fact, necessary. This summary judgment standard is often referred to as the “put up or shut up” standard since it requires a party basically to go ahead and show his cards if he wants to avoid a dismissal.
If you are a plaintiff in a case where the defendant has filed a motion for summary judgment, it is paramount that you present the right kind of evidence in the proper form in order to defeat the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.
Here’s an example of one state’s “put up or shut up” summary judgment standard:
. . . the moving party who does not bear the burden of proof at trial shall prevail on its motion for summary judgment if it:
(1) Submits affirmative evidence that negates an essential element of the nonmoving party’s claim; or
(2) Demonstrates to the court that the nonmoving party’s evidence is insufficient to establish an essential element of the nonmoving party’s claim.
Summary judgment is not a disfavored procedural shortcut, and so it should be taken seriously. A judge will grant summary judgment – and dismiss the case – if the undisputed facts and applicable law reasonably permit only one conclusion.
Thanks to our friends and contributors at Wiseman Bray PLLC who have significant experience in litigating cases and fighting for injury victims.