02.25.21

What Is a Summary Judgment?

A motion for summary judgment has the power to resolve a civil case without the case ever going to court. A summary judgment is a final decision made by a judge on a matter where both parties – the defendant and the plaintiff – agree to the material facts of the case. In this situation, since there is no dispute to be heard, a judge can grant a summary judgment to end the case without a trial.

The Basics of Summary Judgment

In a typical civil case, the filing party or petitioner, known as the plaintiff, seeks financial compensation from a defendant for allegedly causing economic and/or noneconomic damages. The defendant will have a chance to answer the claim by either accepting financial responsibility and offering a settlement or refuting fault.

Many personal injury cases involve disputes. Two or more parties will either negotiate for a resolution to their dispute during mediation or go all the way to trial for a court decision to resolve the case. If, however, the defendant believes the plaintiff has no evidence (or vice versa), that party can file a motion for summary judgment with the help of a Kansas City personal injury lawyer.

Both a defendant and a plaintiff have the right to file a motion for summary judgment. However, this motion comes more often from the defendant in personal injury law. If a judge passes the motion, he or she will make a final decision on the case without it needing to go to court.

The Burden of Proof in a Summary Judgment

A summary judgment will depend on the evidence available. Summary judgment is only possible when the key facts of a case, known as the material facts, are not disputed. The person filing the motion for summary judgment (the movant) must prove that no material facts of the case can reasonably be disputed, making the movant legally entitled to summary judgment.

In a typical personal injury case, the burden of proof or responsibility to establish the validity of the case rests with the plaintiff. It is the injured party’s responsibility to prove that the defendant more likely than not caused his or her losses. This evidentiary standard is known as a preponderance of the evidence.

If the defendant makes a motion for summary judgment, however, the burden of proof switches to the defendant. It is no longer the plaintiff’s responsibility to prove that he or she was injured; instead, it is the defendant’s responsibility to prove that the plaintiff has no evidence, entitling him or her to summary judgment.

The Legal Process for Filing a Motion for Summary Judgment

If either side of a personal injury case wishes to file a motion for summary judgment, he or she will submit the proper paperwork. There are two parts to this type of motion: the motion itself (a written request for a judge to rule in the movant’s favor) and the memorandum. A memorandum is an explanation that supports the motion by explaining why the judge should rule in the movant’s favor.

Once the nonmoving party receives notice of the motion, he or she will have around 21 days to file a response, otherwise known as an opposition motion. When responding to a motion for summary judgment, a party must produce evidence to show that one of the facts of the case can be disputed, or else that while there are no disputed facts, the movant is incorrect in his or her interpretation of the law.

If the nonmoving party cannot establish one of these two things, a judge in Missouri will most likely approve the motion for summary judgment and rule in the movant’s favor. A judge will use evidence, the material facts of the case, the original motion filed and any responses filed to decide on a motion for summary judgment.

If you are curious whether you are eligible for summary judgment during a personal injury case in Missouri, consult with an attorney.

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