When people think of a victory in a lawsuit, most undoubtedly think about two lawyers giving eloquent closing statements, jury deliberations, and the final verdict being read. A victory on the merits of a case, after each side presents all of its evidence and makes the best arguments it can, is the preferred method for resolving most legal disputes between parties that cannot reach a settlement. However, there are other ways that victory can be achieved in a lawsuit. One of the most common other ways in personal injury cases is when a court grants a motion for summary judgment.
A motion for summary judgment is a request by a party for a judgment that is based on the evidence prior to trial. It is a request made to the Judge, and not to the jury. The request can be for a final resolution of the entire case (final summary judgment), or it can be a request for judgment on certain issues, claims, or defenses (partial summary judgment).
If a defendant files a motion for summary judgment in a personal injury case, it is essentially saying that the plaintiff does not even have disputed evidence to support each element of his or her claim. The basic elements of a personal injury claim are as follows. First, plaintiffs must prove that a defendant owed them a “duty” to behave reasonably under the circumstances. Second, they must prove that this defendant breached this duty (“breach”). Next, they must prove that they suffered harm (“damages”). Lastly, they must prove that the defendant’s breach of this duty caused them this harm (“causation”). If the defendant’s evidence contradicts the plaintiff’s evidence, if a reasonable jury could choose to believe the plaintiff’s evidence rather than the defendants, summary judgment is inappropriate.
Defendants make requests for final summary judgment more often than plaintiffs, and this is probably because plaintiffs have the burden of proving their case. This means that defendants can win based on an absence of evidence, such as if plaintiffs have no evidence of duty, breach, causation, or damages. Even if plaintiffs have evidence of three out of the four elements of negligence, they may still receive an adverse summary judgment ruling if a judge finds that they had no evidence of the remaining element. In order to obtain final summary judgment in their favor, however, plaintiffs must show that the evidence is so overwhelmingly and one-sidedly in his or her favor that no reasonable jury could find against him or her, and that the defendant does not even have disputed evidence to support any of its denials or defenses, which is much more difficult.
Contacting a Lawyer for your Personal Injury Case
If you have suffered an accident because of the negligence of others, we recommend that you consult with experienced personal injury lawyers who know and understand the summary judgment standard and have the passion to represent you and protect your legal rights. The law firm of Aronfeld Trial Lawyers has over 30 years of combined legal experience representing people and their families who have been hurt across the State of Florida. Let our years of experience help you if you were injured because of the negligence of others. Contact our office today at 1-866-597-4529 or by email at [email protected].