Basic Principles

Standard

Rule 56(a)

Requirements:

Burden is on the moving party to establish both conditions.

Court must “view the facts and draw all reasonable inferences ‘in the light most favorable to party opposing the motion.” Scott v. Harris (US 2007); U.S. v. Diebold, Inc. (US 1962)

Procedure

Establishing Absence/Existence of Factual Dispute

Rule 56(c)

A party may establish the absence or presence of a factual dispute in either of two ways:

Form of Evidence

Genuine Issue of Material Fact

Material fact

Slaven v. City of Salem (Mass. 1982)

Materiality of facts depends on the substantive law governing the claim(s) or affirmative defense(s).

Genuine Issue

Scott v. Harris (US 2007)

“[O]pponent must do more than show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.”

Burden of Production & Proof

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett (US 1986)

Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. (US 1986)

Matsushita Elec. Indust. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp. (US 1986)

Examples

  1. Two drivers, Manny and Moe, approach an intersection at right angles. They enter the intersection at the same time and collide. Both of them die instantly. Manny’s estate sues Moe’s estate for wrongful death, alleging that Moe’s negligence caused the accident. Moe’s estate asserts a counterclaim for wrongful death, alleging that Manny’s negligence caused the accident.

    • There were no eyewitnesses.
    • The only evidence is that there was a working traffic light, so either Manny or Moe (but only one of them) must have run the red light.
  2. Mort must take a pill every day to remain alive. The pills are highly toxic, and taking two within 24 hours is fatal.

    • Mort is found dead, and the evidence shows Mort took two pills that day.
    • Mort had a life insurance policy that would pay benefits to Mort’s estate if he died by accident, but not if he committed suicide.
    • A few weeks before Mort’s death, he made out new will.
    • The day before he died, Mort made plans for fishing trip the following week.

Scope of Summary Judgment

Partial Summary Judgment

Rule 56(a)

A party may move for summary judgment as to entire claim or defense, or as to a part thereof.

Rule 56(g)

If the court does not grant all the relief requested by the motion, it may enter an order stating any material fact—including an item or damages or other relief—that is not genuinely in dispute and treating the fact as established in the case.

In re FedEx Ground Package Syst., Inc., 734 F.Supp.2d 557 (N.D. Ind. 2010)

Facts & Issue
Decision