What Is Summary Judgment?


Even though you have been sued and you filed an answer to the lawsuit, your case could end up being resolved WITHOUT holding the trial. A trial is held to determine the facts in a case by presenting witnesses and exhibits to show what really happened. A party may request the judge enter a summary judgment if (1) there is no "genuine" issue of fact to be decided by a judge or jury at trial and (2) they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

Below is information that may be helpful to file an answer but it is not a substitute for legal advice. There are other rules and laws that may apply to your situation, but these are common rules and laws that apply in civil cases.

 
 
1  MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT - BASIS
  • Any party can request that the judge enter a summary judgment by filing a motion for summary judgment if (1) there is no "genuine" issue of fact to be decided and (2) they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Usually, this request is made after disclosure has been completed.
  • To not have a "genuine" issue of fact means that the most important facts of a case are undisputed and there are no facts for a judge or a jury to decide at trial.
  EXAMPLE: You agree that you opened a credit card and you did not make your payments.
EXAMPLE: You agree you were in a car accident but do not agree that your car was blue.

  • A party who requests a summary judgment must be entitled to judgment as a matter of law if the undisputed facts are true because the law requires judgment in their favor.
  EXAMPLE: In Arizona, if you do not pay off your car loan, you are still liable for the "deficiency balance" even if you think it is unfair.

  2  TIMEFRAMES
  • A motion for summary judgment cannot be filed before an answer is filed or if there are fewer than 90 days remaining before the trial.
  • If you receive a motion for summary judgment, you have 30 days to respond.
  3  MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT - CONTENTS
  • A motion for summary judgment must include (1) a statement of facts and (2) a memorandum of law.
  • A statement of facts must have each of the facts stated separately in numbered paragraphs or numbered sentences. A statement of facts must be supported by affidavits, exhibits, or other material that establishes each fact by admissible evidence.
  • A memorandum of law summarizes the issues, provides legal authority in support of the motion, and describes why the judge should grant the motion.
  4  REPLY
  • The reply to a motion for summary judgment must also include (1) the statement of facts that is supported by affidavits, exhibits, or other material.
  • It is important to read the affidavit attached to the motion and to respond with your own affidavit.
  • But remember, the affidavit must be based on personal knowledge and must contain only facts that would be admissible as evidence at trial.

  • BEWARE: It is not enough for you to simply deny facts. You must present evidence that shows a genuine dispute of the facts.
  EXAMPLE: You cannot just say "The carpet was not damaged when I moved out." Instead, you might want to present photographs showing the conditions of the carpet and an affidavit explaining the photographs and when they were taken.

  5  MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS
  • A creditor may also file a motion for judgment on the pleadings if all the information needed is already contained in the pleadings and there is no need for supporting documents, such as affidavits, exhibits or other material. Pleadings are the documents that are part of the case file. 
  • The creditor would also need to be entitled to judgment as a matter of law. 
  EXAMPLE: If you answer the complaint admitting you owe the money, the creditor can request a judgment on the pleadings.  

  • If matters outside the pleadings are presented to the court, the court will treat the motion as a motion for summary judgment.
  6  RULING
  • The judge may grant the motion completely or partially.
  • The judge may also decide the party is liable for the debt but still hold a trial or a hearing to determine the amount owed.

  • WARNING: The judge may grant the motion for summary judgment or motion for judgment on the pleadings without a hearing if the opposing party does not file a reply or if their reply does not comply with the requirements.
  7  JUDGMENTS
  • Summary judgments and judgments on the pleadings have the same effect as a judgment after trial or a default judgment.