For most of our clients the lawsuit we represent them in is the only lawsuit they have ever been involved in so it is a little confusing the first time they hear of a “summary judgment” motion. This is a relatively routine filing in most cases (although it is not often filed in car wreck cases).
Basically, the motion for summary judgment asks the court to look at all of the evidence, and give the benefit of the doubt to the non-filing party (normally the plaintiff) but then it asks the court to rule that even with this benefit of the doubt, no reasonable jury could rule with the plaintiff. So, you might think of it this way, if there was a trial the judge would “summarily” enter judgment for the defendant. But instead of taking up the jury’s time, the judge will enter summary judgment and the case will (normally) be over.
A simple example – if the plaintiff says he was not involved in the wreck but yet sued the defendant for the wreck, no reasonable jury could ever rule in the plaintiff’s favor.
But when the facts are in conflict, the judge cannot make the decision – a jury must. The classic example is a car wreck case involving “who had the green light”. The plaintiff says he did. The defendant denies this and says he had the green light. Who is right? The judge normally can’t decide – instead a jury will have to decide.
This is why it is important during the case to find the facts that are in conflict so that a jury will have a chance to decide the case rather than the judge.
Sometimes the plaintiff will file a motion for summary judgment (maybe the defendant admitted fault, etc) but normally it is the defendant who files this type of motion.
We hope this very brief overview has been of some value and if we can answer any questions for you please don’t hesitate to ask us. Our website related to personal injury claims is still under construction so in the meantime you can contact us through our consumer website contact form.