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Summary Judgment - A Powerful Tool to Avoid Unnecessary Trial

What is Summary Judgment?

People sue others for a variety of reasons, including money, harm to their property or corporate reputation, or an accident, among others. They rely on the courts and the law. In terms of time, as the courts have been increasingly overburdened over the years, it now takes months for hearings to be scheduled or paperwork to be processed.

Costs, on the other hand, can quickly spiral out of control in highly contested cases. As a result, it is critical that parties approach their costs in a reasonable manner. In view of these phenomena, summary judgments come to the light.

What is the definition of summary judgment?

A summary judgment is a procedure that allows any of the claimants (you or your opponent) – or the court – to resolve all or part of a matter without having to go to trial. Both parties to the lawsuit are covered by the order.

The Summary Judgment is not confined to the Plaintiff's claim but also includes the defendant's counter-claim. A party's application for Summary Judgment is filed not only to decide a claim or counter-claim but also to obtain a response to any specific question on which the claim is based.

What Is the Process for Getting a Summary Judgment?

When there are no more facts to be tried, summary judgment is awarded. There's no way to get further information because all of the necessary statements and evidence are already in front of the judge.

When the facts can be decided without going to trial, and the other party would lose owing to a lack of evidence, summary judgment is given. Summary judgment must be denied if it is not evident that there is no more evidence.

The following are the primary considerations that the court will make:

A claim, issue, or defence to a claim, issue, or defence to a claim, issue, or defence to a claim, issue, or defence to a claim, issue, or defence to a claim, issue, or defence to a claim, issue, or defence to a claim, issue, or

It's worth noting that if you're the applicant (the party seeking summary judgment), you have the burden of proof (onus) to prove all of the above.

What are the relevant court rules in terms of summary judgments?

The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) contain the important court rules in connection to summary judgment that you should be aware of. The following are the important rules, along with links to the CPR's pertinent pages:

  • CPR 24.2 – Summary judgment reasons

  • CPR 3.3(1) & (4) – Contains the court's authority to issue an order for summary judgment on its own motion.

  • CPR 1.4 - Establishes the court's responsibility for case management, which includes summarily dismissing cases.

Types of Summary Judgments

There are two fundamental forms of summary-judgment motions from a tactical standpoint. One demands a comprehensive evidence presentation, while the other merely requires a restricted, targeted one.

To begin, a plaintiff can seek summary judgment on any cause of action, and a defendant can seek summary judgment on any affirmative defense. However, the moving party must show evidence in support of each and every fundamental aspect of the claim or defense in either circumstance (as it would have to do at trial). Because all portions of an entire claim or defense are at issue, this form of summary-judgment motion must be written as a written preview of a party's full case-in-chief to be successful.

Second, a defendant may seek summary judgment on a plaintiff's cause of action, which is a different and extremely typical technique. The main difference is that in this case, the defendant only needs to oppose one of the plaintiff's claim's fundamental elements. If the plaintiff is unable to prove one fundamental aspect of its claim, all other elements become irrelevant, and the defendant is granted summary judgment. As a result, these motions are usually targeted at the plaintiff's weakest spots. A plaintiff can also seek summary judgment on a defendant's affirmative defense, but such motions are uncommon.

What is the procedure for requesting a summary judgment?

The following are the most essential points with respect to the procedural aspects of applying for summary judgment:

  • If you are the party seeking summary judgment, you must file Form N244 and expressly state that the application is being filed under CPR 24 on the form. The protocol to be followed is outlined in CPR 23. However, if your claim is being processed as part of the shorter trial schemes pilot, you may be able to file an application under CPR 23 with some modifications.

  • If you are the applicant, you must specify the proof (point of law or document) on which you are responding and the grounds for your application.

  • When it comes to what to file in court, make sure you serve adequate copies of the application notice and proof within the deadline.

  • In terms of fees, you should search online for 'EX50 – Civil and Family Court Fees' to see what the current fee is for filing the application. The most recent version of EX50 may be obtained here, and the fee is £255 at the time of writing (summary judgment is classed as an application on notice where no other fee is specified).

  • The next step is to serve the respondent with the application and supporting proof. The parties must serve costs schedules on each other 24 hours before the hearing if you are claiming costs from them and they are claiming costs from you (which would normally be the case in these circumstances).

  • You and the other side should exchange skeleton arguments before the application hearing, and if you are the claimant, you are responsible for creating a court bundle.

Following the hearing, the court may grant summary judgment, strike out or dismiss your claim or the defendant's defense (depending on the circumstances), issue a conditional order, or issue additional directions.

In civil cases, either party may make a pre-trial motion for summary judgment.

Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs summary judgment for federal courts.

Under Rule 56, in order to succeed in a motion for summary judgment two conditions must be met:

(1) there must be no genuine doubt of material fact; and

(2) the Movant must have a right to judge


A genuine controversy indicates that some facts are in dispute. A party opposing Summary Judgment must usually present evidence that refutes the moving party's view of the facts.


Furthermore, the disputed facts must be important to the case; inconsequential or small factual disagreements will not defeat a motion for Summary Judgment.

Finally, the law must require the moving party to be awarded judgment based on the indisputable facts of the case. Summary judgment does not imply that a judge decides which side will win a trial, nor does it imply that a judge determines witness reliability. It is instead utilised when there are no factual issues for a Judge or Jury to consider.

Even if the moving party would not have the Duty of Proof at trial, the moving party has the initial burden of proving that Summary Judgment is proper. The evidence given with the motion is often examined in the light most favourable to the opposing party. When the burden of proof is placed on the opposing party at trial, the moving party might get Summary Judgment by demonstrating that the opposing party has no evidence or that its evidence is insufficient to meet its burden.

In what situations can you get a summary judgment?

In theory, if you're the defendant in a dispute, you can get a summary judgment against a claimant in any sort of action if you're the defendant. If you are a claimant in a certain sort of dispute (for example, home possession proceedings), you may not be able to obtain summary judgment; if you are unclear, you should seek legal advice.

When considering whether to proceed with a summary judgment application, there are a few things to keep in mind. The following are some of them:

  • If you are a claimant and your opponent has raised a challenge to the court's jurisdiction, you should normally wait until the issue has been resolved.

  • Making a summary judgment application could cause delays and cost you more money. This is due to the fact that, until the application is heard, proceedings are normally halted for various reasons. In general, unsuccessful applications will result in adverse orders against the applicant.

  • With the aforementioned danger in mind, it's important to remember that, even if the application is rejected, it may provide a tactical advantage and save time. This is because the opposing party will have been pushed to present their case and evidence at an early stage.

  • If a defendant needs additional time to research the claim or the case is exceptionally complex, the court may refuse to give summary judgment.

Advantages of Summary Judgments

• Saving the cost of a trial,

• Contributing to early case resolution,

• Narrowing the issues for trial,

• Demanding disclosure of the opponent's evidence,

• Facilitating trial preparation, and

• Boosting the prospects of settlement or voluntary dismissal of the case

Disadvantages of Summary Judgments

• Adding significant expense to the litigation,

• Facing a high risk of defeat,

• Weakening settlement position after a loss on the motion,

• Educating the opposition about your evidence and strategy,

• Generating evidence that the opposition may use for cross-examination at trial,

• Facing de novo review on appeal, which may be more favourable to the opposition than the standard of review following trial, and

• Subjecting the decision to reconsideration by the court on its own motion.

Conclusion

One of the basic goals of the Rules of Civil Procedure is to obtain the most, speedy, and least expensive determination of every civil matter on its merits. Judgment and mechanisms to settle an issue before trial serve this principle. A side has legal means at its disposal to reach such a result if a trial is unnecessary or can be hastened, or the legal problems can be limited.

The process outlined in Order XIII-A of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, is designed to shorten the time it takes to resolve a commercial dispute of a specific value. It is hardly an exaggeration to suggest that the purpose of the modification to the Code is to increase the merchant class's faith in the impartiality, transparency, and effectiveness of the justice delivery system. Some of the loopholes utilized by some of the parties have been addressed in the current provision.

Furthermore, it should be mentioned that the Special Courts, which are Superior Courts at the District level, have been designated to adjudicate the cases. With the addition of Order XIII-A to the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, the fact that trial is the default process in every civil matter was abolished.


As a result, the legislature's goal is to enable courts to resolve commercial disputes of a certain value in a timely and efficient manner.

References

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