Anatomy of a Lawsuit, Part 5: Summary Judgment

After the plaintiff has filed and served the complaint, received the answer (or overcome a motion to dismiss), and conducted and completed discovery, we reach a point where a party may seek a remedy called “summary judgment.” (While technically a party may move for summary judgment before the close of discovery, it typically occurs after discovery has concluded and all the facts are “in.”)

Summary judgment is, in sum, a remedy available to a party to a lawsuit where (1) there is no genuine dispute as to a material fact, and (2) the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. 

As courts often say, the question a court considering a motion for summary judgment is issue finding, not issue resolution. Stated another way, a court considering a motion for summary judgment is deciding not the ultimate question, but rather whether there is sufficient evidence from which a reasonable factfinder may find in the non-movant’s favor. 

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