Pursuant to Rule 56 of the Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure, a party to a lawsuit who believes that the other party’s claims lack merit and should be dismissed, has the ability to get the case dismissed, short of a trial, by filing a motion for summary judgment.
The standard under Trial Rule 56 is whether there are any genuine issues of material fact and whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Essentially, the moving party has to establish that there are no material facts in dispute.
In moving for summary judgment, the moving party has to designate the facts to the court that establish dismissal is warranted. Generally, there are three documents that will get filed, including 1) the motion for summary judgment; 2) the memorandum of law in support of summary judgment; and 3) a designation of evidence.
The motion for summary judgment should be relatively short and give the court a brief description of the facts of the case and why the case should be dismissed. The motion contains numbered paragraphs and outlines the reasons why summary judgment is warranted.
The memorandum of law in support of summary judgment is usually a longer document and contains several different sections, including the introduction section, the statement of facts section, the legal standard section, the argument section, and the conclusion section.
It is important that the statement of facts section contains a citation to the evidence in the record at the end of each sentence. Failure to have a citation to a piece of evidence in the record will result in the sentence being stricken.
For example, the following sentences show how citations are used in the statement of facts section:
The parties entered into a contract on May 1, 2013. (John Smith Deposition, p. 1, ll. 2-5, attached to Plaintiff’s Designation of Evidence as Exhibit 1). Pursuant to the contract, John Smith was to be paid five hundred dollars for every sale he generated. (Complaint, p. 1, l. 7, attached to Plaintiff’s Designation of Evidence as Exhibit 2; see also Contact, p. 1, attached to Plaintiff’s Designation of Evidence as Exhibit 3).
As demonstrated above, each factual statement is supported by a citation to evidence in the record. Without such citations, the factual statements are not admissible.
The designation of evidence is a relatively short document, usually just a couple of pages that list each document/exhibit that the moving party is relying upon in moving for summary judgment. The designation of evidence specifically identifies each exhibit, or portion thereof, and then said exhibit is attached to the designation of evidence and submitted to the court.
When reviewing a dispositive motion, the court will view all evidence and inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Further, the court will not weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations. Rather, if there is any conflicting evidence or inferences, the court will deny the dispositive motion and let the matter proceed to trial even if it appears that the non-moving party will not succeed at trial.
Moving for, or responding to, summary judgment can be a relatively complicated matter involving issues that the average person will not know or understand. In these situations, if an attorney has not been retained, efforts to retain an attorney, to handle the dispositive motion process, should be taken.