Sarah Edwards | December 09, 2022
Summary: When one side of a lawsuit believes there are enough facts and evidence to avoid a full trial, they can file a Motion for Summary Judgment. If a judge grants the motion, they’ll issue a finding on all or part of the lawsuit per state or federal regulations.
You may have heard of a Motion for Summary Judgment, but you might need clarification on its meaning.
Put simply, a Motion for Summary Judgment can expedite the legal process by asking a judge to decide a case based on the evidence provided. Either a plaintiff or a defendant can file the motion.
The judge will then decide whether to grant the motion depending on the case’s circumstances and evidence. Either side can rebut the motion by providing their own evidence and arguments.
Read on to learn more about what a Motion for Summary Judgment is, when to use it, and who can potentially benefit from it.
A Motion for Summary Judgment asks the judge to promptly issue a judgment, in favor of the person filing it, on the entirety of a case or specific issues. At times, this helps avoid a lengthy and costly legal battle.
If the judge grants a Motion for Summary Judgment, they’ll examine the plaintiff and defendant’s arguments and evidence concerning the issue. They’ll also consider the legal standard for granting the motion, which can vary depending on the court’s jurisdiction.
In most jurisdictions, a party asking for a Motion for Summary Judgment must demonstrate that there are no issues involving a dispute of facts. If either party disagrees with the issues at hand or believes there is not enough evidence to substantiate a Summary Judgment, they can dispute the motion.
Both the plaintiff and defendant can file a Motion for Summary Judgment in a civil or criminal lawsuit.
However, most of the time, the plaintiff is usually the party to file a Motion for Summary Judgment, often providing enough evidence for the judge to support a finding. Of course, the defendant’s legal team may submit evidence to rebut the plaintiff’s argument.
A defendant may also file a Motion for Summary Judgment. Usually, defendants file the motion if they believe there is enough evidence in their favor to dismiss the claims against them.
The judge decides on the motion’s outcome, no matter which party files a Motion for Summary Judgment.
The Motion for Summary Judgment is a tool available in legal proceedings that allows the court to skip the need for a trial. If a judge grants the motion, the case is resolved expeditiously without needing more time in the courtroom.
When a judge grants a Motion for Summary Judgment, they consider only the facts and evidence provided before the initial court date.
Given the pretrial evidence, the defendant’s response, and other documentation, the judge will decide whether the motion is reasonable. The judge will order a trial if there is insufficient evidence to grant a Motion for Summary Judgment.
Because the judge maintains ultimate authority in their decision concerning a Motion for Summary Judgment, they must consider whether the plaintiff and defendant agree on the issues concerning the Motion for Summary Judgment. If neither side is disputing the facts pertaining to the motion and there is existing case law to support a finding for the issues, the judge will likely grant it.
If either side disputes the issues concerning the Motion for Summary Judgment, the judge may refuse it. The judge will also carefully consider whether enough evidence exists to support a Summary Judgment finding. The case will likely go to trial if there are questions concerning the evidence or insufficient facts to support the claim.
The party who requests the Motion for Summary Judgment is responsible for the burden of proof. Whether the plaintiff or defendant requests the Motion for Summary Judgment does not matter; the party who makes the request must provide the evidence.
Once a party asks for a Motion for Summary Judgment, they’ll provide evidence and an argument to support their claims. The other party can choose to rebut the motion, and if they do so, they’ll need to provide enough evidence for the judge to determine that there is a dispute of facts that requires a trial.
A Motion for Summary Judgment can benefit either party in a lawsuit.
A plaintiff can use the Motion for Summary Judgment to avoid a lengthy and expensive trial against a defendant. If the plaintiff has enough evidence to comply with the law concerning the case, it’s also advantageous to avoid clogging the court system with an unnecessary lawsuit.
A defendant can file a Motion for Summary Judgment if they believe they have enough information to dismiss the case. For example, if the case has several elements, and they have enough documentation to persuade the judge that one of the elements isn’t accurate, they can seriously damage the plaintiff’s claims.
Attorneys for both sides of a lawsuit will consider whether a Motion for Summary Judgment is appropriate for their claims and if it will benefit their clients.
After one party asks for a Motion for Summary Judgment, it’s not unusual for attorneys to seek a settlement while the motion is still pending. A settlement may be advantageous depending on the circumstances of the Motion for Summary Judgment and the evidence given.
For instance, a defendant who believes there is a high chance of approval for the plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment may seek to avoid an extensive trial and provide a settlement offer. The settlement offer may not provide everything the plaintiff’s seeking, but it will keep costs lower and limit attorney’s fees.
However, not every attorney will attempt to settle. If there isn’t much chance of the judge granting a Motion for Summary Judgment, they may allow the lawsuit to proceed.
No, a Motion for Summary Judgment is not typical in a debt case. Usually, they are more common in criminal cases, though they may be appropriate in civil claims.
Defendants in debt lawsuits are more likely to encounter a Motion for Default Judgment, which a creditor may file when a consumer fails to submit a response to their Complaint or show up for the court case.
A creditor can request a Motion for Summary Judgment, however, if a consumer files an Answer in response to the creditor’s Complaint. If the consumer’s Answer doesn’t contain enough supporting evidence to refute the creditor’s Complaint, the judge will decide whether the Motion for Summary Judgment is appropriate.
The consumer will have the chance to rebut the creditor’s Motion for Summary Judgment. If they do, the judge will consider both sides before deciding whether to grant the Judgment or allow the claim to proceed to a hearing or a trial.
A Motion for Summary Judgment is appropriate when either party believes there are enough facts and evidence to support their claims in a lawsuit. In a hypothetical example, consider a plaintiff that files a Complaint and a defendant that issues an Answer to their issues. Both parties prepare to represent themselves in a trial.
However, one party feels that they have a solid case that meets federal or state laws for their claim. For instance, a prosecutor filing a lawsuit against a defendant for theft may present a video recording, statements from witnesses who saw the robbery, and pictures of the defendant leaving the crime scene. In what appears to be a clear-cut case, the prosecutor may ask for a Motion for Summary Judgment based on the evidence provided.
The defendant can either accept the plaintiff’s claims against them or attempt to refute their findings by presenting additional evidence or arguments. For example, they may claim that the video given by the plaintiff was of someone else.
The judge will review the plaintiff’s evidence and the defendant’s arguments before issuing a finding on the Motion for Summary Judgment. If they believe there is insufficient evidence to support the motion, the case will go to trial.
A Motion for Default Judgment is filed when the defendant hasn’t issued any response to the plaintiff’s initial complaint within the stipulated deadline. Motions for Default Judgment are typical in debt collection cases.
Consider another example of a creditor, Payday Loans 4 U, who files a Complaint against a consumer, Susie, who didn’t repay their loan. The consumer ignores the Complaint and the lawsuit, failing to defend themselves in any way.
On Susie’s court date, Payday Loans 4 U asks the court to grant a Motion for Default Judgment. Since Susie hasn’t given any defense to her case, the judge agrees, and Payday Loans 4 U obtains the judgment they can use to collect the money from Susie.
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