My name is Ron Drescher. I’m an attorney practicing
bankruptcy and commercial litigation in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and today
I want to answer the question: What is a motion for summary judgment? In litigation, there’s
a plaintiff and there’s a defendant, and they are having a dispute. Sometimes the dispute
is over what happened. Did the plaintiff run the red light and that caused the defendant
to crash into them, or did the defendant actually sign the promissory note and does he now owe
money to the plaintiff; but frequently, the facts are not in dispute, and when that happens,
there really is no need for a trial because the court can consider both sides’ position
based upon papers, affidavits and documents and other items that are part of the evidentiary
record. When that happens, the parties can come before the court, and they can argue
over what the result should be based upon applying the undisputed facts to the controlling
law, and when that happens, a party files a motion for summary judgment. Now there are
two ways to oppose a motion for summary judgment. The first way is to say well, wait a second.
There is a dispute over the facts. There’s a dispute as to how much money is owed under
a promissory note. There might be a dispute as to whether or not there’s defense. Was
there really a payment? Were there a series of payments made? These are facts that may
give rise to a dispute that a court would have to actually conduct a trial to resolve.
The second way to oppose a motion for summary judgment is to say well, yes, we agree there’s
no dispute as to the material facts, but the law favors our side not the opposing side;
and therefore, we should win on our own motion for summary judgment. Now a motion for summary
judgment needs to be supported by facts and evidence that would be admissible in a trial.
The affidavits need to be sworn under penalty of perjury under personal knowledge. In some
cases, people might say, “Well, on knowledge and information I’m going to testify.” That’s
not good enough in a motion for summary judgment. The affidavits must be based on your personal
knowledge, and frequently a party may neglect to submit an affidavit completely. When that
happens, they might lose, and the court might say, “Well, there’s no affidavit providing
any dispute as to the facts.” Therefore, the person who’s moving for summary judgment wins.
My name is Ron Drescher. I’m an attorney practicing bankruptcy and commercial litigation, and
if you have a question about something that’s come up in a trial that you’re involved in,
please pick up the phone and call me. I would love to hear from you.