Civil Procedure.  In a motion for summary judgment, a party asks the court the enter judgment in that party’s favor on one or more of the claims at issue in the case without holding a trial.  The moving party carries the burden to show that no triable issue of material facts exist as to that claim and the moving party is entitled to judgment on the claim(s).

Motion for Summary Judgment Filed by Defendant:  Where the motion is filed by a defendant, all that the defendant need do is to show that the plaintiff cannot establish at least one element of the cause of action.  The defendant need not himself conclusively negate any such element.  A defendant may satisfy its burden by showing that the plaintiff does not possess, and cannot reasonably obtain, needed evidence.  After a defendant meets its burden, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to prove the existence of a triable issue of fact regarding that element of its cause of action.

Motion for Summary Judgment Filed by Plaintiff:  As the moving partyplaintiff has the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of fact for trial.  When the moving party also bears the burden of persuasion at trial, to prevail on summary judgment he must show that the evidence is so powerful that no reasonable jury would be free to disbelieve it.  Because plaintiff has both the burden of production and persuasion, plaintiff must also prove that there are no genuine issues of material fact on every element of each claim.  If plaintiff fails to carry his initial burden of production, defendant has no obligation to produce anything in response.  Defendant need only point out that there is an absence of evidence to support plaintiff’s case.

REFERENCE DESK

Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 56

A party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim or defense — or the part of each claim or defense — on which summary judgment is sought. The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The court should state on the record the reasons for granting or denying the motion . . .

California Code of Civil Procedure § 437c

A party may move for summary judgment in an action or proceeding if it is contended that the action has no merit or that there is no defense to the action or proceeding . . .

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986):

Under Rule 56(c), summary judgment is proper “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” In our view, the plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party’s case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. In such a situation, there can be “no genuine issue as to any material fact,” since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party’s case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial. The moving party is “entitled to a judgment as a matter of law” because the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden of proof. The standard for granting summary judgment mirrors the standard for a directed verdict under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a).

Of course, a party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,” which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. But unlike the Court of Appeals, we find no express or implied requirement in Rule 56 that the moving party support its motion with affidavits or other similar materials negating the opponent’s claim. On the contrary, Rule 56(c), which refers to “the affidavits, if any” (emphasis added), suggests the absence of such a requirement. And if there were any doubt about the meaning of Rule 56(c) in this regard, such doubt is clearly removed by Rules 56(a) and (b), which provide that claimants and defendants, respectively, may move for summary judgment “with or without supporting affidavits” (emphasis added). The import of these subsections is that, regardless of whether the moving party accompanies its summary judgment motion with affidavits, the motion may, and should, be granted so long as whatever is before the district court demonstrates that the standard for the entry of summary judgment, as set forth in Rule 56(c), is satisfied. One of the principal purposes of the summary judgment rule is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses, and we think it should be interpreted in a way that allows it to accomplish this purpose.

Aguilar v. Atlantic Richfield Company, 25 Cal. 4th 826 (2001):

First, and generally, from commencement to conclusion, the party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of persuasion that there is no triable issue of material fact and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. That is because of the general principle that a party who seeks a court’s action in his favor bears the burden of persuasion thereon.  There is a triable issue of material fact if, and only if, the evidence would allow a reasonable trier of fact to find the underlying fact in favor of the party opposing the motion in accordance with the applicable standard of proof.  In Reader’s Digest Assn. v. Superior Court (1984)37 Cal.3d 244252 (hereafter sometimes Reader’s Digest), we held to the effect that the placement and quantum of the burden of proof at trial were crucial for purposes of summary judgment, expressly as to the burden’s placement and impliedly as to its quantum. There is nothing contrary in the language or legislative history of the 1992 and 1993 amendments. Thus, a plaintiff bears the burden of persuasion that “each element of” the “cause of action” in question has been “proved,” and hence that “there is no defense” thereto.  A defendant bears the burden of persuasion that “one or more elements of” the “cause of action” in question “cannot be established,” or that “there is a complete defense” thereto.

Second, and generally, the party moving for summary judgment bears an initial burden of production to make a prima facie showing of the nonexistence of any triable issue of material fact; if he carries his burden of production, he causes a shift, and the opposing party is then subjected to a burden of production of his own to make a prima facie showing of the existence of a triable issue of material fact. Although not expressly, the 1992 and 1993 amendments impliedly provide in this regard for a burden of production as opposed to a burden of persuasion. A burden of production entails only the presentation of “evidence.” A burden of persuasion, however, entails the “establish[ment]” through such evidence of a “requisite degree of belief.” It would make little, if any, sense to allow for the shifting of a burden of persuasion. For if the moving party carries a burden of persuasion, the opposing party can do nothing other than concede. Further, although not expressly, the 1992 and 1993 amendments impliedly provide for a burden of production to make a prima facie showing.[14] A prima facie showing is one that is sufficient to support the position of the party in question. (Cf. Evid. Code §602 [stating that a “statute providing that a fact or group of facts is prima facie evidence of another fact establishes a rebuttable presumption”].) No more is called for.

Third, and generally, how the parties moving for, and opposing, summary judgment may each carry their burden of persuasion and/or production depends on which would bear what burden of proof at trial. Again, in Reader’s Digest, we held to the effect that the placement and quantum of the burden of proof at trial were crucial for purposes of summary judgment.  In the legislative history, if not the quoted language, of the 1992 and 1993 amendments, there is support for such a proposition; in neither is there anything contrary. Thus, if a plaintiff who would bear the burden of proof by a preponderance of evidence at trial moves for summary judgment, he must present evidence that would require a reasonable trier of fact to find any underlying material fact more likely than not — otherwise, he would not be entitled to judgment as a matter of law, but would have to present his evidence to a trier of fact. By contrast, if a defendant moves for summary judgment against such a plaintiff, he must present evidence that would require a reasonable trier of fact not to find any underlying material fact more likely than not otherwise, he would not be entitled to judgment as a matter of law, but would have to present his evidence to a trier of fact.

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