Will Your Case Get To Trial? Not If Summary Judgment Is Entered
When you file a business law case, you know you always have the option to settle the case. But if you don’t want to settle, your case will go to trial, where your case will be heard and decided by a judge or a jury. That is completely up to you, if you want to take your case that far…or is it?
Cutting the Case Short
Actually, it may not be, because of what is known as a summary judgment. The summary judgment rule allows a judge to cut short your case, and enter a judgment for or against either party, before a full trial, before the full presentation of evidence, and before you ever get to a jury (if you’re entitled to a jury in the first place).
How is this possible? It sounds almost undemocratic or against basic notions of due process. But this ability for a judge to, in one hearing, end a case prematurely, has actually been part of our legal system for many years, and is commonly used in cases all the time.
The reason that the summary judgment rule exists is to cut short frivolous cases, or cases where, after the sides have gathered evidence, it appears there is such overwhelming evidence for or against one party or another that there is no point in going to a full trial.
The way to get summary judgment is to gather the information (that is, the evidence) that you would present at trial, if the case went to trial.
A summary judgment is not a full hearing, but just a hearing where you tell the judge “this is the evidence I would have, and this is what my opponent wouldn’t have, if the case went all the way to trial.” Documents can be presented, and affidavits of witnesses are often presented as well, so the judge can see what a given witness would say, if there was a full blown trial.
The judge will ask whether he or she (or whether the jury, if it is a jury trial) would reasonably have a choice—that is, whether there is enough evidence that there is anything in doubt or in dispute. If so, the summary judgment will be denied, and the case will proceed to trial. If not the summary judgment will be entered and the case is over.
Effect of a Summary Judgment
The summary judgment, if entered, is the same judgment that you would get if you won your trial. You will have a right to collect costs and attorneys fees, if you would otherwise get them.
The Court can enter partial summary judgment as well—for example, the judge could enter a summary judgment on a breach of contract count, but leave a breach of fiduciary duty count open to proceed to trial.
Do you have a business law case that needs to go to trial? Call the West Palm Beach business litigation attorneys at Pike & Lustig today.