Summary Judgement in California
Summary judgement is a potent tool used in court. It has the ability to profoundly damage a case and cause a favorable settlement.
Summary Judgement according to California Civil Code of Procedure section 473(c) states:
The motion for summary judgment shall be granted if all the papers submitted show that there is no triable issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.
Unlike federal court, California state courts limit summary adjudication motions to four types of issues:
A party may move for adjudication as to one or more causes of action within an action, one or more affirmative defenses, one or more claims for damages, or one or more issues of duty, if that party contends that the cause of action has no merit or that there is no affirmative defense thereto, or that there is no merit to an affirmative defense as to any cause of action, or both, or that there is no merit to a defendants either owed or did not owe a duty to the plaintiff or plaintiffs. A motion for summary adjudication shall be granted only if it completely disposes of a cause of action, an affirmative defense, a claim for damages, or an issue of duty.
When Summary Adjudication Works:
- There is no evidence or material of fact that the opposing party has the burden of proof
- Jury would not accept argument based on factual issues that are essential elements to party’s claim or defense
- No evidence of malice, fraud, or oppression
Summary judgement is most likely pursued up until the gravamen of the case has been addressed and investigated in the discovery process. Early summary judgement could be counterproductive and courts will be reluctant to rule before the discovery process takes place. In most cases, if evidence is found after a summary judgement motion is granted, the evidence would be used to set aside the grant of summary judgement. If this new evidence is material that could not have been produced earlier, the party can file a motion under CA Code of Civil Procedure Section 657 can file a motion. CA Code of Civil Procedure Section 437 (a); Robinson v Woods (2008) 168 CA4th 1258, 1268 states that the motions for summary judgment cannot be heard later than 30 days before the trial date.