What is a Motion for Summary Judgement

A Motion for Summary Judgement (sometimes called an “MSJ”) is a request for the court to rule that the other party has no case, because there are no facts at issue. The party making the motion is claiming that either the case should not go before a jury at all, or a jury could only rule in favor of the moving party.

In order to win an MSJ, the moving party must show that:

  • there are no facts which can reasonably be disputed; or
  • anyone looking at the facts and applying law would rule in favor of the moving party.

Although either plaintiff or defendant is allowed to make this kind of motion, in a personal injury case MSJs are most often brought by the defendant. In a personal injury case, for example, a defendant’s MSJ will usually argue that the defendant had no duty toward the plaintiff (the existence of a legal duty is a key element of “negligence,” which forms the basis of liability in most injury cases). An MSJ might also be based on lack of evidence, so that even if the defendant had a duty to the plaintiff, there is no proof that the duty was breached or that the breach caused the injury.  If an MSJ is granted, the case is closed with regard to the moving party.