Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Summary Judgment vs Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law

The distinction between a summary judgment and a judgment as a matter of law (formerly known as a directed verdict) was showing up on the MBE even before Civil Procedure became a testable subject. Now that Civil Procedure is tested, it's even more likely to come up in one way or another.

A motion for summary judgment is a pretrial procedure to determine whether genuine issues of material fact exist within the case. A decision in favor of the moving party will resolve a lawsuit before there is a trial. Summary judgment is awarded if the undisputed facts and the law make it clear that it would be impossible for the opposing party (the non-moving party) to prevail if the matter were to proceed to trial.

A motion for judgment as a matter of law, on the other hand, is requested at the end of a plaintiff's case or after all the evidence has been completed. The moving party when making a motion for judgment as a matter of law is arguing that the evidence clearly reveals that s/he must prevail and that there is therefore no reason to send the case to the jury. In deciding whether to grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law, all the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. A motion for judgment as a matter of law if granted is usually granted because the judge concludes that the non-moving party has failed to offer the minimum amount of evidence to prove the case. In other words, no reasonable jury could decide in favor of the non-moving party.

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