In many personal injury cases, the named defendant will try to get the case dismissed as early as possible in the process. Often, the earliest opportunity for a defendant to try for a dismissal is at the summary judgment stage. Summary judgment is a motion that a defendant can make, claiming that the plaintiff’s case as presented cannot legally result in anything other than a defense verdict.
The legal standard at summary judgment is whether “there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” In assessing the evidence during a summary judgment proceeding, the judge should consider all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. In most personal injury cases, it is the defendant that is moving for summary judgment, so the evidence is to be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
If a defendant can prove that there is no issue of material fact, the judge will dismiss the plaintiff’s case. It is the defendant’s burden to prove that there is no issue of material fact, rather than the plaintiff’s burden to prove that one exists. A recent Florida slip-and-fall case illustrates how courts apply the summary judgment standard to expert witness testimony.