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Legal Memorandum: Standard for Summary Judgment

Issue: What is the standard for summary judgment?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Summary Judgment; Genuine issues of material fact
Jurisdiction: California
Cited Cases: 112 Cal. Rptr. 786; 114 Cal. App. 4; 136 Cal. App. 4; 11 Cal.3d 1; 24 P.3d 493; 25 Cal. 4
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 11/01/2007

            In ruling upon a motion for summary judgment, a court is required to consider all of the evidence and the inferences reasonably drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the movant.  Aguilar v. Atlantic Richfield Co. (2001) 25 Cal. 4th 826, 843, 107 Cal. Rptr. 2d 841, 856, 24 P.3d 493.  Declarations offered in opposition to the motion are to be construed liberally, while declarations offered in support are to be strictly construed.  Weil & Brown, Civil Procedure Before Trial (Rutter Group 2005) § 10:309, citing D’Amico v. Bd. of Med. Examiners (1974) 11 Cal.3d 1, 21, 112 Cal. Rptr. 786, 801.  It is well-established that causation is generally held to be a question of fact for the jury.  Hoyem v. Manhattan Beach City Sch. Dist. (1978) 22 Cal. 3d 508, 585 P. 2d 851, 858.

The cases of Jennings v. Palomar Pomerado Health Systems (2003) 114 Cal. App. 4th 1108, 8 Cal. Rptr. 3d 363, and Nardizzi v. Harbor Chrysler Plymouth Sales, Inc. (2006) 136 Cal. App. 4th, 39 Cal. Rptr. 3d 530 are often cited in opposition to a summary judgment motion on the issue of causation.  This reliance is misplaced.

The Jennings case concerns causational testimony by a medical expert at trial, which was stricken because it was not explained:

Although Dr. Miller testified the retractor was a cause-in-fact of the infection, his conclusion was unaccompanied by any reasoned explanation supporting […]

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