Motion For Summary Judgement – When The Defendant Asks The Judge to Dismiss Your Case
Just like in a criminal case, everyone knows that ultimately, it’s up to a jury to decide your personal injury claim. That’s the crown jewel of our legal system: letting a jury of our peers decide if we’re right or wrong. But before this happens, the judge must decide if the parties to the litigation have passed a “threshold” of evidence to even warrant assembling a jury in the first place.
You see, we don’t want to waste the jury’s time by submitting baseless, frivolous claims to them. Further, if the case is completely clear-cut that the plaintiff is correct in his case, why bother 12 potential jurors with it?
To prevent this from happening, either party can file a “motion for summary judgment” and ask the court to rule that the case doesn’t need to go to the jury. For each thing the plaintiff wants (“claims”) or each argument the defendant wants to allege (“defenses”), they must offer evidence. When they don’t, the judge can toss out their claims entirely. Almost always, however, it’s the defendant asking the judge to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims.
Questions Answered on This Page:
- What exactly is a “motion for summary judgement”?
- How does a motion for summary judgement work in Texas?
It’s your lawyer’s job to go get the evidence you need.
As we discuss throughout these “explaining the basics” pages, lawsuits are not won on mere allegations, but on evidence. Defendants in personal injury cases often file what’s termed a “no-evidence motion for summary judgment,” which attacks your claims for supposedly not having essentially any evidence.
These motions are intended to clean out a court’s schedule of any claims that cannot prove that there’s a reason that the jury can go their way. The plaintiff must then make a showing, through the record of evidence already developed by the parties, that there’s some evidence that his claims are right.
Without getting too thick into the weeds on this, there must be evidence to corroborate each and every element of your claim. Laws and common law causes of action have elements. “Elements” are like ingredients in food—if you don’t have jelly in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, it’s not a PB&J. In order to keep a judge from throwing your case out for lack of evidence, your attorney will need to be able to point to actual evidence for each element. For example, in a negligence case, you must be able to show that:
- The defendant owed you a duty. In a premises liability case, this can be shown by pointing the court to deposition testimony that the defendant building owner admitted in a deposition that he knew he had a responsibility to provide a safe store for you to walk in and shop. Further, your lawyer should cite to previous decisions (called “case law”) that involved courts establishing that property owners owe a general duty of providing a safe environment can help.
- The defendant breached that duty. Your attorney should be able to cite some evidence—deposition testimony, photographic evidence, a police report—that the defendant screwed up. In a car accident case, for example, if you claim that you remember seeing the defendant swerve improperly into your lane, that’s sufficient.
- The accident itself caused your injuries. It’s not enough to show you’re hurt. Your attorney will need to be able to cite some evidence that the injuries you received came from the accident. This can be accomplished through medical affidavits.
You must be alleging a “legally viable” claim.
This may strike you as obvious. You don’t have to be some great legal expert to guess that no court of law will hear a case about friends who are upset with each other over sports or politics. But situations arise where courts have to grapple whether the law even allows you to file a lawsuit.
A simple example: legislatures and courts change the law, and what new law means is often open to interpretation. When this happens, courts have to examine what the new law even means. Lawyers often make a sport out of arguing over words in laws, disputing (always for their client’s advantage) whether, say, “employee” also means “intern” in a workplace protection law. Courts then ask a court to step in and make a decision. So, your attorney might be faced with a defendant not disputing that something bad happened to you, but whether there’s even a cause of action you can sue under.
Call Grossman Law Offices Today:
Regardless, your attorney will need to be more than good in the courtroom. He’ll need to work for months to secure the evidence and research the law to avoid your case getting tossed out entirely. Don’t risk your case–big or “small”–on an attorney without the track record of fighting back against the defendants. Call Grossman Law Offices today at (855) 326-0000.
Other articles about personal injury cases that may be helpful: