What is a Summary Judgement?

Often, when we see a case go to trial, we will clearly see that the opposing parties do not agree on the facts of the case. However, there are times when a plaintiff and a defendant do agree on the facts of the case. When this happens, a motion could be made for a summary judgment. If a summary judgment is granted, this can end a civil suit before it goes to trial. However, it is crucial to understand how a motion for summary judgment works, particularly if you are involved in an ongoing civil lawsuit. A Seattle personal injury attorney can help.

What is a Motion for Summary Judgement?

When a lawsuit goes to trial, this usually means that the parties involved do not agree on the facts of the case. The plaintiff and the defendant will argue their case in front of a jury, and a jury will decide what is true and what is not true based on the evidence.

However, if the facts of the case are not disputed, this changes the landscape of a potential lawsuit. A motion for summary judgment is a request made by either party that asks the court to decide all or part of the lawsuit without the need for a trial. After all, if there is no dispute about the key facts of the case, a trial would be a significant waste of time and resources.

The party that makes a motion for summary judgment will be called the “movant.” Either the plaintiff or the defendant can be the movant. Regardless of which party files the motion for summary judgment, they must prove the following in order for the motion to be successful:

  • But there are no material facts that could reasonably be disputed
  • Because of the undisputed facts, the movant is entitled to summary judgment under the applicable law

Example of a Motion for Summary Judgement

We understand that this could be confusing for those who do not have much legal experience. In order to properly illustrate what a motion for summary judgment could look like, we want to pose a theoretical case for you to examine:

Let us assume that Robbie and Samantha are involved in a vehicle accident. Robbie claims that Samantha ran a red light and caused the crash. It turns out that Robbie also has a dashcam video and video surveillance from a nearby home that shows Samantha running the red light and crashing into him. In this case, it is entirely plausible for Robbie’s attorney to file a motion for summary judgment claiming that:

  1. There are no material facts that can be disputed in the case. In other words, Samantha will not be able to provide any evidence that raises doubts that she ran to the red light and caused the crash.
  2. In light of these undisputed facts, Robbie will be entitled to summary judgment under the applicable personal injury law. Because Samantha ran the red light and caused the crash, she will be held liable under the laws of negligence.

When we look at this example, we can see that a judge would likely grant Robbie’s motion for summary judgment in this case. As a result, there would be no need to take the claim all the way to trial to determine the issue of liability. However, this does not mean that the case is over. Both parties will still need to negotiate the issue of how much Samantha will pay in damages.

Additionally, with very complicated and fatal cases like wrongful death cases summary judgement may not be possible, since there are often disputed facts in those cases. When that happens, a Seattle wrongful death lawyer will need to bring the case to trial.