Summary Judgement DC Car Accident Lawyer
If a lawsuit moves to a trial in a civil case, it is usually because there is a disagreement over the facts of the case.
However, when there is no disagreement over the material facts (facts that a reasonable person would find important to the case), some or all of a trial can be avoided through summary judgement. One party files the motion for summary judgement, and it is either granted in full, partially, or not at all.
In Washington, D.C., the movant (party filing the summary judgement motion) may file at any time under 30 days after the close of discovery. Summary judgement should be granted if two conditions are met: (1) the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and (2) the movant is entitled to judgement as a matter of law. “Judgement as a matter of law” means that because there is no dispute over the material facts, the jury can be dismissed and the judge alone will rule on the matter.
Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure elicits further details regarding summary judgement, most of which came from three cases tried in the 1980s.
Celotex Corp v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-27 (1986)
A woman sued in the US District Court for D.C., alleging that her husband died from asbestos exposure; she named 15 corporations. Celotex Corp filed a motion for summary judgement stating that Ms. Catrett could not produce evidence showing that her husband was exposed to its asbestos products. The documents Ms. Catrett “tended to show such exposure,” but Celotex argued that they were hearsay. The District Court originally granted the motion for summary judgement, but it was reversed at the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The Supreme Court then ruled in Celotex Corps’ favor, writing that the moving party only needs to show that the opposing party lacks sufficient evidence.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 257 (1986)
Anderson was a publisher for a magazine which published articles calling Liberty Lobby anti-Semitic, racist, and fascist. Liberty Lobby sued Anderson for libel, but Anderson filed a motion for summary judgement. Anderson’s argument was that Liberty Lobby did not have clear and convincing evidence that the articles were made with actual malice. The District Court granted the motion for summary judgement, which was then reversed on appeal. The Court of Appeals stated that evidence does not need to be clear and convincing for summary judgement. It was appealed once more to the Supreme Court, which ruled that when the “clear and convincing” standard applies, it also applies to summary judgement.
Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574 (1986)
Zenith Radio Corporation sued Matsushita, a Japanese manufacturer of electronics, claiming that Matsushita and twenty other Japanese companies worked together to set high prices for their products in Japan and low prices for their products in America, with the intention of driving American companies out of the market. If true, this would be a violation of antitrust laws. Matsushita filed a motion for summary judgement. The court ruled that most of Zenith’s evidence was inadmissible. The remaining evidence did not raise a genuine issue of material fact, and the motion was granted. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed the rule, and held that most of Zenith’s evidence was admissible. The Supreme Court then regranted the motion for summary judgement, stating that the evidence was insufficient. Zenith could not show that they were harmed as a result of Matsushita’s activity. The case’s impact on summary judgement was that it raised the standard of evidence shown to unambiguous evidence.
If you or a loved one has been injured due to negligence or wrongful conduct, the attorneys at Cohen & Cohen can help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.